It happens sometimes. Quite unexpectedly. At an unexpected place. You anticipate an ordinary day. Then it comes. A revelation. A blow directly amid of your forehead. It hapened to me last time, when I visited National Gallery in Bratislava. The show “Flying Dutchmen” knocked me down on my knees, namely the energy shock represented by the etching of Lucas Van Leyden, which he created when he was only 14.
Just try to imagine – you are amidst of quantum etchings and woodcuts, 15 – 17 century, by itself you expect balanced works of old masters, aged and experienced men. You are ready to see Rembrandts, (eventhough they do not present the best ones), you can bear the shivering caused by the splendid harmony of the black and white kingdom of beauty.
And then suddenly – a big bang! In front of you there is a finest etching you ever saw, sensitive array of lines, a unique harmony of composition and relationship of light and obscure parts. Something really outstanding among the number of other sheets of paper:
Yes, 14 years old. This child really brought me down. With the innocent smile of confident yobbo he brought down as well all other etchings and engravings exhibited there, or which I ever saw (except of the Rembrandts and Dürers, whom he is boldly breathing on neck).
He was the pupil of his father, from whose hand no works are known. Where he learnt engraving is unknown, but he was highly skilled in that art at a very early age: the earliest known print by him (Mohammed and the Murdered Monk) dates from 1508, when he was perhaps only 14, yet reveals no trace of immaturity in inspiration or technique.
Untill today I cannot completely cope with the fact, that in so early age that extremly skilled guy created works of art, which cannot be compared with any other for the next 500 (and more) years, and you can find better pieces only among Rembrandts or Dürers. Would you like to see it? Try New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.