Joris van der Paele

Joris van der Paele or Georgius de Pala (ca. 1370–1443) was a scribe in the papal chancery, a successful career ecclesiastic, and a patron of the painter Jan van Eyck.


Joris van der Paele was born in or near Bruges around 1370, into a family with considerable clerical connections. Among these, both his uncle and his brother were to hold positions in Saint Donatian's collegiate church in Bruges. Joris became a clerk in minor orders of the diocese of Tournai at an early age, and was later ordained subdeacon but never received higher orders. He was appointed a prebendary of St Donatian's in 1387 and installed on 22 March 1388.[1] In 1394, during the Western Schism, he was deprived of his prebend due to his loyalty to Pope Boniface IX in Rome, the city of Bruges recognising Avignon as the seat of the papacy. By 1396 he had been appointed to a position in the Roman chancery, and by 1409, while still working in the papal chancery, he had been appointed to prebends in Utrecht, Maastricht, Strasbourg, Cologne and Huy. In 1410 he was reappointed to a canonry of the church of St Donatian in Bruges. In July 1418 he began a process of retirement.[2] From 1425 he was permanently resident in Bruges.

In 1432 Van der Paele's health declined markedly. From 1434 he began to work on his legacy to the church, founding a chapel and commissioning a painting from Jan van Eyck. This was to become Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele. He would have been in his sixties and suffering from temporal arteritis, when the painting was begun.[3] In 1442 he founded a second chapel.

Van der Paele died in Bruges on 25 August 1443 and was buried in the chapel he had founded in the church of St Donatian.


  1. ^ Rafael De Keyser, "Paele, Joris Van der," Nationaal Biografisch Woordenboek, vol. 5 (Brussels, 1972), 673-677.
  2. ^ Stephen Hanley, "Optical Symbolism as Optical Description: A Case Study of Canon van der Paele's Spectacles," Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art 1/1 (Winter 2009), DOI: 10.5092/jhna.2009.1.2.1.
  3. ^ Jan V. Dequeker, "Polymyalgia Rheumatica with Temporal Arteritis, as Painted by Jan van Eyck in 1436," Canadian Medical Association Journal 124/12 (15 June 1981): 1597-98.