Rogier van der weyden

On the trail of one of the first artists to paint ordinary things

There are many marvellous things to be seen in the Musée des Beaux-Arts at Dijon. But when I paid a visit a couple of years ago (in those days you could just step on a train and do such things), it was a little picture of the Nativity that particularly caught my eye. Its date, artist and original owner are all uncertain, but its beauty and originality were clear at a glance. Here, for almost the first time in European art, the appearance of ordinary things and people were the subject of close, rapt observation. Not of course that there was anything ordinary about the Nativity itself, which was a