A romantic element to this painting is that it is believed to have been completed alongside a self-portrait of the artist, to be displayed together. The latter accompanying work has either been since lost or is the portrait found at the National Gallery in London, and now separated from the portrait of his wife. That can be found in the Groeningemuseum in Brugesm Belgium, amongst several other works by this artist. There is documentation to suggest that an alternative self-portrait had existed and this appears to be the most likely explanation.
Members of the Renaissance have produced portraits of their wives, mothers and daughters on many occassions but this is perhaps one of the most memorable and artistically impressive. Sadly the artist would pass away just two years after this painting was completed, making it a particularly personal parting-gift to his much loved wife. Indeed, the lettering on the frame would me a direct message to his wife as a momento of this present.
Van Eyck regularly left small notes on his flourished frames, a signature style rarely used by any other artists at this time. The signature also reveals that Margaret was 33 years of age at this time, making her around 10-15 years younger than her husband, whose own birthdate has never been precisely agreed upon. We only know that he was born somewhere between the years of 1390 to 1395.
We have included a larger photograph of the painting which allows you to appreciate more of the detail to be found here. Margaret features the pale skin common in the Netherlands at this time, as well as a hairstyle found frequently within women of this day. The cloth which is placed over her hair and drapes to the sides of her face is beautifully captured, with the viewer feeling able to reach out and feel the material themselves. Her expression is stern, common in many of his portrait paintings and her clothing is relatively modest but presentable all the same.