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A Goldsmith in his Shop

Petrus Christus (Netherlandish, Baarle-Hertog (Baerle-Duc), active by 1444–died 1475/76 Bruges)

Oil on oak panel
Overall 39 3/8 x 33 3/4 in. (100.1 x 85.8 cm); painted surface 38 5/8 x 33 1/2 in. (98 x 85.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
Accession Number:
  • Description

    A celebrated masterpiece of Northern Renaissance Art, this painting attests to Netherlandish artists’ keen interest in pictorial illusionism and meticulous attention to detail. Petrus Christus, the leading painter in Bruges (Flanders) after the death of Jan van Eyck, signed and dated the work in 1449. The luminous jeweled, glass, and metallic objects -- secular and ecclesiastic trade wares -- likely served as an advertisement for the goldsmith’s guild of Bruges, who may have commissioned the painting.
    The main figure in this enigmatic painting, traditionally identified as Saint Eligius (the patron saint of goldsmiths), is more likely a portrait of an actual goldsmith of fifteenth-century Bruges. The sumptuously dressed couple is buying a wedding ring that is being weighed on a scale, while the girdle that extends over the ledge of the shop into the viewer’s space is a further allusion to matrimony. The convex mirror, which links the pictorial space to the street outside, reflects two young men with a falcon (symbol of pride and greed) and establishes a moral comparison between the imperfect world of the viewer and the world of virtue and balance depicted here.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed and dated in white paint (bottom): m petr[vs] xpi me· ·fecit·ao 1449· (Master Petrus Christus made me in the year 1449) [with the artist's emblem, which resembles a clock escapement combined with a heart]

  • Provenance

    A. Merli, Bremen, Germany; his sale, Frankfurt am Main, September 11, 1815, lot 144; [Silberberg]; Gerhard Seibel, Elberfeld (lent by him to the Central-Museum zu Düsseldorf); Salomon Oppenheim the younger (d. 1828), Cologne, by 1825; by descent to his grandson, Albert, Freiherr von Oppenheim (d. 1912), Cologne; his sale, Rudolf Lepke, Berlin, March 19, 1918, lot 6; Busch, Mainz; [Y. Perdoux, Paris]; acquired by Philip Lehman from Perdoux in 1920.

  • See also