Denny’s Daily Zinger: How Google Led Me to Discover One of the Great Jokers of the Renaissance

Rogier van der Weyden's self portraits?

More of Rogier van der Weyden's self portraits?

The crown jewel of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a Crucifixion by the Flemish master, Rogier van der Weyden.
(See illustration No. 1 in the media player at right.)

At the museum, I always spend time contemplating this gem.

At the Prado, I saw van der Weyden’s “Descent from the Cross” with the same St. John the Evangelist in the Philadelphia diptych.

Traveling the Continent in an Hour
Where else had this character shown up? Using the miracle of Google, I visited museums in Berlin, Brussels, Baune, Antwerp, London, The Hague, Madrid, Paris, Florence, Berne and Vienna.

The identical fella appears in van der Weyden crucifixions and pietas all over Europe.

I went to Wikipedia to get a wiring diagram on the life of Rogier van der Weyden, and was greeted with the line:

Van der Weyden left no self-portraits.

However, here was a 1572 pen-and-ink portrait of van der Weyden by Cornelis Cort. It bears a close resemblance to van der Weyden’s ubiquitous St. John the Evangelist—especially the chin.

Then it hit me. Wikipedia got it wrong. Like Waldo and Woody Allen’s Zelig, the artist painted himself many times. He would be forever seen as a player in history’s greatest event.

In the media player at upper right are what I’m convinced are 15 selfies of Rogier van der Weyden.

The final one in illustration No. 2 shows him older with a buzz haircut. This very different self-portrait was painted in 1464—the year of his death.

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Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

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