Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Virgin and Child

Workshop or Circle of Hans Traut (German, ca. 1500)
Oil, gold, and silver on linden
15 5/8 x 12 1/8 in. (39.7 x 30.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1922
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 641
This painting testifies to the widespread influence of early Netherlandish masters on German artists of the last half of the fifteenth century. Although the exact prototype for this Virgin and Child is unknown, the composition and figure style can be generally associated with models by Dieric Bouts that were widely circulated through drawings. Technical examination revealed that the underdrawing of the figures was transferred onto the panel from a preexisting pattern. The landscape, however, was painted freehand and bears a close resemblance to a German watercolor drawing (Universitätsbibliothek Erlangen), supporting the attribution to the workshop or circle of Hans Traut.

Early on this painting was attributed by Martin Conway (1922) to the Haarlem painter Aelbert van Ouwater, whose Raising of Lazarus (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin), he suggested, showed figures comparable in style. Max J. Friedländer (1925 and 1968) instead drew attention to the relationship with the work of Dieric Bouts. Most closely associated with the style of the figures in this painting are those in the Visitation and Adoration of the Kings, two of four altarpiece panels in the Prado, Madrid, which were believed to be early works by Bouts, but are now understood as later paintings by Bouts and a workshop assistant, respectively. The composition of the Museum's panel is adapted from Bouts’s Salting Madonna of about 1465 in the National Gallery, London (Sprinson de Jesús 1998). The half-length Virgin and Child seated in a domestic interior, in front of a cloth of honor and an open window through which a landscape can be viewed was popularized by Bouts and influenced not only Netherlandish but also German paintings. A very similar version, attributed to the Master of the Hapsburgs, can be found in the collection of the Correr Museum, Venice. Most recently, the MMA panel has been attributed to the workshop or circle of the Nuremberg artist Hans Traut, based on the resemblance between the Virgin’s face and the heads of female saints in an Augustinian altarpiece from 1487 (Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg) and the head of the Madonna in the Virgin of Mercy with Frederick the Wise of 1486 in Grafenegg (Messling 2010).

The support is linden wood, which was commonly used in Germany, especially in the Middle- and Upper Rhine area. Certain details additionally reveal its German origin: the Virgin’s girdle type, the somewhat meager imitation of a Netherlandish painting's brocade cloth of honor, and the flattened oblong beads of the rosary. The window moldings and the wall behind the figures, not including the cloth of honor, are underlaid with gold. This gold consists of two leaves—a mostly gold one over a mostly silver one, a combination known as zwischgold. Pigmented glazes and short strokes of dark paint were applied over the gold to create the impression of a wood grain. The shimmering gold of the wood paneling behind the figures is atypical for Netherlandish paintings, and can be found more commonly in German pictures of this era. It recreates the actual practice of "gilding" wood paneling within the domestic interiors of wealthy individuals. The brocade cloth of honor, meant to resemble those found in many Netherlandish paintings, is built up in a very different manner. Instead of the variegrated strokes of lead-tin yellow pigment used to create a shimmering effect of individual gold threads in Netherlandish paintings, the artist here uses ochre, pink and white strokes placed in a uniform manner. The latter results in a less convincing effect of embroidery reflecting light than in Netherlandish precedents. It is most likely that the painter did not train in the Netherlands, and was only familiar with the compositions and figural types of Bouts through model drawings that circulated throughout Germany.

Infrared reflectography (see Additional Images, fig. 2) revealed contour-line underdrawing of the figures, clothing and architectural space. The rigidity of these drawn lines is characteristic of a pattern transfer, indicating that the composition was based on a pre-existing design. Remnants of pouncing show that the design was first transferred from a pricked cartoon on paper and then fixed and strengthened with brush and a liquid medium. No underdrawing is visible in the landscape that was likely directly painted on the panel.

[2011; adapted from Ainsworth 2013]

The support is linden, with the grain oriented vertically. The panel has been thinned and reinforced with secondary support of thick conifer. Two horizontal strips of wood, formerly attached with large nails at the top and bottom, have been removed and the tracks rebuilt with wood oriented vertically. The panel has a mild transverse concave warp. There is a short vertical split rising from the bottom to the right of center. The reverse is thickly coated with wax.

Incised lines mark the perimeter of the image and the locations of the window molding, foreground ledge, and cloth of honor. These lines are visible in the x-radiograph (see Additional Images, fig. 1) and extend to the edges of the panel.

Examination using infrared reflectography (see Additional Images, fig. 2) demonstrated that the initial underdrawing derived from a transfer or tracing and that a second, liquid material was brushed on top to strengthen the design. It also revealed basic underdrawn contours for the figures, clothing, and architectural space. No underdrawing was seen in the landscape.

The window moldings and the wall behind the figures (excluding the cloth of honor) are underlaid with a laminate metal leaf composed of silver and gold, known as Zwischgold. This was applied over a mordant containing lead-tin yellow (type I). A glaze colored with an organic brown pigment coats the metal leaf, and small, dark strokes of paint create an undulating linear pattern. The gilded portions show a distinct microscopic crack pattern that differs from the surrounding paint.

The painting is in fair condition, with general abrasion, overall tiny losses following the wood grain, and larger losses in the shadows of the Virgin’s red garments. The reserve left for the Virgin’s hair is amplified by abrasion and by increased transparency of the brown paint. Her bodice now appears nearly black, although it was originally a dark blue-green. The green glazes on the cloth of honor and borders of Mary’s mantle have a streaky brown appearance characteristic of the degradation commonly observed in paints containing copper-green pigments. The cloth of honor would have had a deeper, emerald green color, while the borders were likely a brighter yellowish green. An age-related increase in the transparency of the paint has rendered the gauzy veil between the Virgin’s hand and the Christ Child barely discernible.

[2013; adapted from German Paintings catalogue]
James Broughton, Hillary Place, Leeds (until d. about 1887); Grosvenor Thomas, London (until 1922); [Durlacher, New York, 1922; sold to MMA]
Amsterdam. Rijksmuseum. "Middeleeuwse Kunst der Noordelijke Nederlanden," June 28–September 28, 1958, no. 11.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 22, 1998–February 21, 1999, no. 53.

Bruges. Groeningemuseum. "Van Eyck to Dürer," October 29, 2010–January 30, 2011, no. 226.

Martin Conway. "Albert van Ouwater." Burlington Magazine 40 (March 1922), p. 120, ill. (frontispiece).

B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "A Fifteenth-century Madonna." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 17 (August 1922), p. 176, ill. p. 177.

Otto Pächt. "Forschungen: Ein neuer Ouwater?" Kunstchronik und Kunstmarkt, n.s., 33 (September 1922), pp. 820–21.

Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 3, Dierick Bouts und Joos van Gent. Berlin, 1925, pp. 61, 112, no. 36, pl. XLIX.

Friedrich Winkler. "Der Meister der Habsburger: Ein unbeachteter alpenländischer Maler um 1500." Belvedere 9–10 (1926), pp. 49–50, pl. 5.

Franz Dülberg. Niederländische Malerei der Spätgotik und Renaissance. Potsdam, 1929, p. 76.

Ludwig von Baldass. "Die Entwicklung des Dirk Bouts." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, n.s., 6 (1932), pp. 80–81, 114.

Wolfgang Schöne. Dieric Bouts und seine Schule. Berlin, 1938, pp. 6–7, 23, 25, 30, 136–38, no. 22a, pl. 50b, considers it a copy after Dieric Bouts.

Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 52–53, ill.

Julius S. Held. "Book Reviews: Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta M. Salinger . . ., 1947." Art Bulletin 31 (June 1949), p. 142.

H[orst]. Gerson. De Nederlandse schilderkunst. Vol. 1, Van Geertgen tot Frans Hals. Amsterdam, [1950], p. 14, pl. 16.

Hans Kauffmann. "Wolfgang Schöne, Dieric Bouts und seine Schule." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte (1950), p. 131.

Erwin Panofsky. Early Netherlandish Painting: Its Origins and Character. Cambridge, Mass., 1953, vol. 1, p. 494 n. 3 (to p. 321), as probably by a follower of Ouwater and Bouts.

Middeleeuwse kunst der noordelijke Nederlanden. Exh. cat., Rijksmuseum. [Amsterdam], [1958], p. 45, no. 11, comments on the South German character of the landscape, unusual in Netherlandish painting.

Albert Châtelet. "Albert van Ouwater." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 55 (February 1960), pp. 66, 77, 78 n. 3, rejects the attribution of this panel to Ouwater, finding it closer to the early works of Dieric Bouts.

James E. Snyder. "The Early Haarlem School of Painting, I. Ouwater and the Master of the Tiburtine Sibyl." Art Bulletin 42 (1960), pp. 43–44, fig. 4.

Max J. Friedländer et al. Early Netherlandish Painting. Vol. 3, Dieric Bouts and Joos van Gent. New York, 1968, pp. 36, 64, no. 36, pl. 53, calls it the work of an unknown follower of Dieric Bouts.

Charles Talbot. Letter to Mary Sprinson. March 9, 1979, notes that aspects of the execution can be associated with Strigel and other Swabian and Upper Rhenish painters of around 1500, in particular the draftsman's or engraver's conventions in the painting; notes that the highlighted strands of hair are accentuated by line in a way uncommon to Bouts and the crosshatching on the drapery at the bottom does not seem Netherlandish.

Albert Châtelet. Early Dutch Painting: Painting in the Northern Netherlands in the Fifteenth Century. English ed. [French ed. 1980]. New York, 1981, pp. 78, 212, no. 54, agrees with Winkler [see Ref. 1926] that this is a copy of a lost early work by Dieric Bouts.

James Snyder. Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, the Graphic Arts from 1350 to 1575. New York, 1985, p. 145, calls it a weak copy of this type of Bouts's Madonna and Child works.

Jeffrey Jennings. "Infrared Visibility of Underdrawing Techniques and Media." Le dessin sous-jacent dans la peinture. Ed. Roger van Schoute and Hélène Verougstraete-Marcq. Colloque 9, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1993, p. 242, pl. 99 (detail of reflectogram assembly), believes that the underdrawing began with a pricked design, which was "dutifully followed with a permanent medium".

James Snyder in The Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 4, New York, 1996, p. 590.

Mary Sprinson de Jesús in From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Maryan W. Ainsworth and Keith Christiansen. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1998, pp. 232–33, no. 53, ill. (color), ascribes it to a German follower of Dieric Bouts, about 1500, noting that it cannot have been produced in Bouts's workshop as the support is pearwood, with a gesso preparation.

Annette LeZotte. The Home Setting in Early Netherlandish Paintings: A Statistical and Iconographical Analysis of Fifteenth- and Early Sixteenth-Century Domestic Imagery. Lewiston, N.Y., 2008, pp. 138–42.

Guido Messling in Van Eyck to Dürer: Early Netherlandish Painting & Central Europe, 1430–1530. Exh. cat., Groeningemuseum, Bruges. Tielt, Belgium, 2010, pp. 411–12, no. 226, ill. (color), attributes it to the workshop or circle of Hans Traut.

Maryan W. Ainsworth in German Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1350–1600. New Haven, 2013, pp. 227–31, 318, no. 53, ill. (color) and fig. 188 (infrared reflectogram).

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