Harvard's chill Fogg Museum has built up its $20 million collection on the theory that the best way to learn about art is to study masterpieces. Those who apply themselves most earnestly to the Fogg's masterpieces are inclined to be a highbrow lot, and their favorite painting is Lucas Van Leyden's cool, subtle Angel.

Known facts about Van Leyden are few and dim, his surviving pictures few and brilliant. The most notable quality in his paintings is their daylight luminosity. Van Leyden was a child prodigy, a master of his craft at twelve. At 33, six years before he died, he was...

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