Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata, a pair of paintings believed to be crafted by renowned Flemish artist Jan van Eyck and completed around 1428-1432, is one of the most iconic works from his portfolio. Despite being composed of two nearly identical panels, there is a significant difference between their sizes. Both panels when together constitute one single artwork, about St Francis receiving the wounds of Christ crucified. Every portrayal in both these panels contains rich symbolism associated with Saint Francis – he is depicted as emaciated with long beard in accordance with his extreme self-mortification.
This composition reflects several other works produced by van Eyck prior to this – like his The Annunciation (1432-33) and Portrait of Cardinal Nicolas Albergati (1431-32). In The Annunciation, the shadows and beams of light represented God’s presence which appears perfectly mirrored in both Godigmata while it has been explained that Saint Francis himself was considered by contemporaries to have been touched with divine light – obviously reflected here by the illumination eliminating surrounding darkness. Similarly, Portrait of Cardinal Nicolas Albergati – depicting a figure framed nervously holding together its garments bearing representations of eyes as symbols for watching – is remarkably similar to an overtly tensed posture adopted by St Francis whilst receiving stigmata in this painting.
Saint Francis Receiving The Stigmata by Jan Van Eyck is an exceptionally detailed and nuance work that portraits unadulterated faith through depictions so sophisticated that it challenges many artists even today. Its profoundly symbolic composition is bound to captivate anyone who remembers that Saint Frances’ example resonates even in modern times.