Mindprint art examples

Inspired structure in Campin’s domestic Annunciation artworks

Robert Campin’s original Annunciation scene of St George and Mary, and his second commissioned version with its two wings added by an apprentice to include the painting’s owners and St Joseph, are nuggets of conscious and subconscious meanings. The names of the owner’s wife, Margarete Scrynmaker, could be the origin of the commissioned ‘Merode’ triptych’s conscious symbolism or programme. Margaret means Pearl, or fruit of tears, and Scrynmaker means Basket- or Chest-maker, or Carpenter, as St Joseph was assumed to be. Christ was announced by an arch-angel, and a ‘pearl’ or inclusion in St Mary’s womb, destined to grow from suffering, to become a jewel in a family chest; as the new couple aspired to nurture the Engelbrecht or ‘Angel-brought’ family and their material and spiritual treasure chest. The artist links the two families to the mystery of Christ, who warned against casting pearls before swine (see Bruegel’s Dutch Proverbs in another post, on And He described heaven as a pearl of great price for which a merchant would sell all. The merchant donors aspired to secure a place in heaven, and to model their home on Revelation’s New Jerusalem with twelve pearly gates. Beneath the cluster of symbols, parables and codes, lies five rigorous layers of subconscious meaning, as in all artworks of all cultures (see Structuralist analyses of both artworks against the mindprint model (see the article Blueprint in another post), demonstrate that artists, copyists and collaborators subconsciously express about 60% of the 100 known optional recurrent features of character and spacing. The archetypal core content of culture is unaffected by any conscious motivations.

Campin’s first Annunciation version shows only two living characters, but enough re-pictured characters to complete the average number of sixteen focal points on the usual axial grid, including eyes, a heart (here two hearts) and a womb as usual. The re-pictured characters include four nobles in heraldic windows, a print of St Christopher carrying the Christ child, two mantelpiece corbel busts, two miniature lion bench finials, a book illustration, a glazed bird on the jug, and three subconscious compromises: a book spine, a hand, and a lily. Minimalist artworks with few characters always force some compromises against the rule of eyes. The triptych version has eight live characters to carry the minimum twelve axial grid points, with three eyeless character compromises: a sword hilt, a foot, and a book spine. Despite these apparent exceptions (see Stoneprint Journal Five on, three of these axes hold two characters each.

The two Campin Annunciation versions confirm some of the unwritten rules of artwork imitations and collaborations. Freehand ‘copies’ and engravings were always new designs, each expressing a new version of the archetypal blueprint. The numbers and kinds of changes that could be made to completed works usually escalate structuralist compromises. Here the donor’s wife, despite here prominence in the symbolism, has her eyes off the axial grid, and her womb far from the type Womb position (see 11 in the list below). Critics such as Lorne Campbell, using conventional, conscious analyses methods, agree that the woman donor was re-worked, and seems ‘crammed in’ and ‘ungrounded’. Her head may have been slightly lower and her eyes may have formed an additional type 7-15 axis with citizens in the street background; then raised to better reflect her status. The bearded man in the garden was also a late addition, but his head is in the exact position to complete the minimum cycle of twelve focal points.

Minute domestic detail is typical of miniatures of the time, after monastic illuminated manuscripts, such as the Hours or calendar books that Mary is reading. Several novel details in this smallish but symbolically dense work, reappear in later Annunciations by other artists. Campin’s Annunciation triptych was hidden in private hands until the late 1950s. Yet this transition from Gothic cosmology to Early Netherlandish domestic realism influenced Jan van Eyck’s Ghent altarpiece Annunciation, and most modern art. Symbolic elements in the central panel relate to Annunciation, Mass and Eucharist.

Some art critics saw Campin’s Annunciation as “incoherent in design”, lacking spatial continuity, as in his Seilern triptych. The sky in the central panel windows was initially in gold, re-painted, but remained incongruous with the Liege street scene in the wings, with poor perspective. Yet these conscious flaws and objections do not affect the formerly invisible structure. No indication of conscious recognition of archetypal features, their peripheral sequence, the axial ocular (eye to eye) grid, the five polar points, or their correlation with the time-frame of Ages, have yet been found, despite analysis of about 770 artworks, 100 built sites, and several iconic sets, including alphabets (see the article Blueprint, in another post).

The Annunciation triptych is undated and unsigned (but see notes under the triptych type 13c), but fairly securely attributed to the early Netherlandish painter labelled Master of Flemalle, probably Robert Campin, and an assistant, perhaps Rogier van der Weyden (who later painted a reading Magdalene, in Christian tradition associated with loose red hair and a vase). The two towers are the Liege Church of St Pierre or Peter, meaning Rock, and Church of Holy Cross. The triptych is named after a previous owner, comtesse Marie-Nicolette de Merode (d1905).

Domestic bliss in Campin’s original Annunciation

Dominant general themes in Robert Campin’s original Annunciation single panel, are revealed by extra features of the types on these axes:

1 /2-8/9 Builder v Healer, typical of twisted posture (here both live characters, and the images of Christ and St Christopher), build (house interior), hero (archangel, St Mary, Christ, St Christopher), book (two Testaments or a Book or Hours), or spring (lily); opposite pillar (furniture, and corbels), heal (Christ’s implied role), or disc (table).

2c-9c Basket v Lid, typical of weave (here rich textiles, bag, and window lattice), container (jug), throne (lion bench), secret (angel, and Immaculate Conception); opposite disc (table), or revelation (Scripture, and some fulfilment in the Annunciation). C-types are off the axial grid, but between specific axes. Types 5c-13c Basket Tail v Head, add the features of herb (here lily); opposite oracle (Scripture and Annunciation).

Minor general themes include these axes:

3-10 Queen v Teacher, including raised arms (here of the angel, St Mary and St Christopher);

4-11 King v Womb, of squat (angel, Mary, Christ), king (noble ancestors, and Christ), rectangles (windows, room), furnace (fireplace); opposite womb (here the main theme, echoed in the vase), law (Testaments), felid (four lion finials, and Christ’s Judah tribe logo), interior, or library (books).

These themes are among the most intimate and domestic in either Testament, and overlap with the ever popular children’s game of mock wedding and mock baptism (see another post on Bruegel’s Children’s games on The two later wings add more features to these types, and add one of the polar axles as a major theme (see the triptych below).

Robert Campin or Flemalle Master c1421; Liege Annunciation, a domestic commission (now in Brussels. Archetypal labels and axial grid by Edmond Furter). This work was the model for the central panel of the Merode private triptych altarpiece c 1426. Both works express the universal structure.

Type Label; Character (noting archetypal features):

1 Builder; Fireplace corbel (building) angel bust A.

2 Builder; St Christopher (hero) carrying (twist) Christ (hero) across a river (pit).

2c Basket; Window lattice (weave) screen (texture).

3 Queen; Window armorial shield C of a noble (queen?).

4 King; Window (rectangle, sun) armorial shield B (twin?) of a noble (king?). And missing candle as Holy Spirit.

5a Priest; White lily of purity (ritual), in the shape of a dove of Holy Spirit (more typical of 12 opposite).

5b Priest; Bird (winged) image on Tuscan jug (priest, water).

5c Basket Tail; Jug (container, water of 5), with design of feathers (texture) and lily (herb?). C-types are off the axial grid, but between specific axes.

6 Exile; Angel Gabriel.

7 Child; Book pouch (bag, rope, unfold, eyeless).

8 Healer; Gabriel’s fingers on his knee, NO EYE.

9 Healer; Gabriel’s fingers on his knee, NO EYE.

9c Basket Lid; Book pouch (container) of textile (weave), at open book (reveal). And Table (lid), a kind of altar, sixteen-sided, perhaps for sixteen Hebrew prophets (hermit, of 9). And table leg (pillar).

10 Teacher; Book (school) of Hours, open (‘arms’ up).

11 Womb; St Mary’s midriff (womb) and hand on book (library).

12 Heart; St Mary’s chest (heart).

13 Heart; Lion (felid) finial B’s chest (heart) on the bench, perhaps a kind of Seat of Wisdom, or throne of Solomon. See Tarot trump 5, Pope on a throne of wisdom, expressing type 5, opposite types 12/13.

13c Basket Head; St Mary’s mouth (oracle). Transitional c-types are off the axial grid, but between specific axes.

14 Mixer; St Mary sitting on the floor, humble, still unaware of Gabriel, reading a book of Hours (time), about to be impregnated (transform). She is in a red gown rather than the usual blue, with red hair unbound, more typical of Magdalene, an identification supported by the vase on the table. Rogier van der Weyden later painted a Magdalene Reading. She is nearer the axial centre (ingress).

15 Maker; Fireplace corbel angel (winged) bust (face) B (doubled).

15g Gal.Gate; Fireplace brush. And chimney (juncture).

Axial centre; Unmarked as usual.

4p Gal.S.Pole; Window shutter A (juncture).

11p Gal.Pole; St Mary’s elbow (limb-joint).

Summer or celestial pole, PC; St Mary’s jaw (limb-joint).

Winter or celestial south pole, PCS; Vase bird’s beak (limb-joint).

The summer marker is on axis 13 or Leo, implying spring and the cultural time-frame in Age Taurus2, confirmed by the prominent position of the only image of Christ, on St Christopher’s shoulders.

Structuralist features of expression are universal, and subconscious to artists, architects, builders, crafters and members of any culture.

The Engelbrecht familys’ Liege townhouse heaven in Campin’s Annunciation triptych

Dominant general themes in Robert Campin and his workshop’s Annunciation triptych are revealed by extra features of the same type axes as in his original single panel version, with some changes and additions, and more prominent polar features:

1 /2-8/9 Builder v Healer, typical of buildings (walls, city, room, furniture, carpenter’s shop), hero (donor, supporter, angel, Mary, Joseph); opposite bent forward posture (two donors).

2c-9c Basket v Lid, typical of container (here a jug, the triptych as a closing or opening ‘box’, the implied basket, jewel cabinet or Schryn in the donor’s maiden name, and the storage bench that St Joseph sits on), instrument (set of tools), arm-link (donor’s hat, guest’s hat, Mary’s book, Joseph’s drill); opposite hat (three). C-types are off the axial grid, but between specific axes.

3-10 Queen v Teacher, of sacrifice (by donors and 5b sponsor); opposite guard (St Joseph as guardian, and the wing panels themselves), metal (set of tools), market (workshop, and street).

6-14 Exile v Mixer, of egress (characters in two wings), tree (tree in garden); opposite tree (Joseph’s log and woodwork).

4p-11p Gal. S. Pole v Gal. Pole, of limb-joints (here Gabriel’s and Mary’s jaws, one about to announce a miracle, one about to utter acceptance of her role, as humble as her seat on a footrest).

Robert Campin or Flemalle Master; Liege Annunciation triptych, or Merode private altarpiece commission, 1422 /1425 (Cloisters, New York. Archetypal labels and axial grid by Edmond Furter).

Type Label; Character (noting archetypal features):

2 Builder; Towel rack swivel (twist) end plate ‘face’.

2c Basket; Washing basin (container, rain) and towel (weave), instruments of Baptism and Mass (sacrifice, of 3). C-types are off the axial grid, but between specific axes.

3 Queen; Angel Gabriel, dressed as a deacon. And light from the round window or ‘eye’. And Christ (sacrifice) Child diving (neck bent), bringing a cross (sacrifice), incarnating towards Mary as divine impregnation. The altarpiece was commissioned by Jan Engelbrecht or Cologne-born Peter Engelbrecht, meaning ‘Angel-brought’.

4 King; Bird (bird) on garden (garden) wall (wall, rectangle).

5b Priest; Guest or sponsor in wedding feast (ritual, assembly) clothes (colours) and cloak? (sash), perhaps a knight (weapon). Added later, yet part of the subconscious structure or visual ‘grammar’.

5c Basket Tail; Liege street scene (maze).

6 Exile; Donor (sacrifice) Jan Engelbrecht, or Cologne-born Peter Engelbrecht, meaning ‘Angel-brought’ (see type 3), from Mechelen, and in Tournai in 1427. His coat of arms is in the stained glass windows. He looks in on St Mary in his house, asking for a family or for entry to heaven later. He is nearer the axial centre (ingress).

6-7 Donor’s wife, Margarete Scrynmaker. Her name means Pearl, or gestation from tears. Her maiden surname means Basket- or Chest-maker, or Carpenter (see 14). Critics see her image as a late addition, and her eye is OFF THE GRID. Yet her names could be the basis of the commissioned artwork’s conscious symbolism and ‘programme’. Christ is a ‘pearl’ or inclusion in St Mary’s womb, to grow hard from suffering, to become a jewel in a family chest; as she aspires to nurture and treasure the Engelbrecht family.

7 Child; Sword pommel (eyeless).

7g Gal.Centre; Steps (juncture) from garden to house or heaven. And door (juncture, path). And donor’s knees (limb-joints).

9 Healer; Angel Gabriel’s foot. And his gesturing hand (bent forward).

9c Basket Lid; Book pouch (container) of green velvet (weave), at open book (reveal) on the table (lid). Sixteen sides may represent sixteen prophets (hermit, of 9). And table leg (pillar).

10 Teacher; Scroll and book (school) of Old and New Testaments, open (’arms’ up), linked to Mary and Christ as fulfilling prophecies.

11 Womb; Bench lion finial A’s midriff (womb).

11p Gal.Pole; Stumbling block or scandalum, a spiked block hung on a convict’s waist to gash his legs legs. One of the reputed instruments of Christ’s Passion. And Joseph’s joinery instruments; saw, axe, knife, drill, those on the table as three crosses of Christ and two thieves.

13 Heart; Chest (heart) of St Joseph, with axe (weapon). And St Mary.

13c Basket Head; Jug (container) with Latin and Hebraic letters (texture, oracle), perhaps spelling ‘De Campyn’ as the artist’s signature. And the fire screen (texture).

14 Mixer; St Joseph, far from the axial centre (egress), drilling spike holes into a stumbling block, an instrument of Christ’s Passion. With axe, saw, rod, footstool, and fire log (tree), after Is10:15: “Shall the axe boast itself against him that hews it, or the saw magnify itself against him that moves it, or the rod shake itself against them that lift it, or the staff lift itself as if there were no wood.’ Isaiah stoked revolution against an Assyrian king that he thought backward and vainglorious. St Augustine saw Joseph guarding against the devil (an optional feature of type 15 adjacent), as Egyptian god Bes guards the newborn. Joseph’s mouse trap is a symbol and proverb of Christ’s flesh as bait, and Crucifixion as capture of the Devil by releasing Adam’s sin. The donor’s wife was Margarete Scrynmaker, meaning Carpenter, a pun on Joseph’s assumed profession (and see 6-7). Conscious and subconscious meanings overlap strongly in the right wing.

15 Maker; Candle smoke and wind gust as Holy Spirit. And fireplace bust (face) corbel (rampant).

15g Gal.Gate; Armorial shields (order) A and B (double). And window (juncture) lattice screen (grid).

Axial centre; Unmarked as usual.

4p Gal.S.Pole; St Gabriel’s jaw (limb-joint).

11p Gal.Pole; St Mary’s jaw (limb-joint).

Summer or celestial pole; Candle.

Winter or celestial south pole; Angel Gabriel’s thumb (limb-joint).

The summer marker is between axes 14-15 or Cancer-Gemini, implying spring and the cultural time-frame in Age Aries-Pisces, confirmed by the small but dramatic image of Christ child floating from the round window. That transitional age was about BC 80, long before the work as usual.

Structuralist features of expression are universal, and subconscious to artists, architects, builders, crafters and members of any culture.