The extant works of Hugo van der Goes frustrated attempts among early historians of Netherlandish painting to organize the artist's career according to a chronology. The survival of a biographical document attesting to his madness additionally troubled the expectation of artistic progression. Goes earned the reputation of the first modern artist whose genius was connected to his aberrant psychology. This essay critically examines the impulse in art history toward temporal sequencing, arguing that such a practice is most profitably applied in the case of Goes not to his oeuvre as a whole but to a study of his process within an individual work. The alterations over time to the surface of The Fall of Man, which has often (but not unanimously) been deemed the artist's “first work,” afford consideration of how Goes thought about revision and how historians of early Netherlandish painting might engage disciplinary change by rethinking the impulse toward prioritization.

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