Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Virgin and Child with Angels

Bernard van Orley (Netherlandish, Brussels ca. 1492–1541/42 Brussels)
ca. 1518
Oil on wood
33 5/8 x 27 1/2 in. (85.4 x 69.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 639
Van Orley probably painted this refined and intimate picture of the Virgin and Child about the time of his appointment in 1518 as official painter to Margaret of Austria, regent of the Netherlands. A courtly Madonna of Humility, the Virgin wears a luxurious fur-trimmed dress and is seated on the ground in the enclosed but spacious garden of her palace. She is accompanied by two singing angels, who are echoed by grisaille angels in heaven. The distant background testifies to the painter’s awareness of the developing landscape genre, and the elaborately ornamented fountain incorporates Italian Renaissance decorative motifs.
Inscription: Inscribed: (on Virgin's robe) MARIA MATER GRASIA[E] MA[TER] . . . (Mary, Mother of Grace, mo[ther] . . . ); (lower left) 1505 / AD [monogram]
sale, Nuremberg, 1779, to Sierstorpff; Kaspar Heinrich von Sierstorpff, Driburg Castle, Driburg (1779–d.1842; cat., 1817, no. 4, as by Dürer); Grafen von Sierstorpff, Driburg Castle (1842–87; their sale, Lepke's, Berlin, April 19, 1887, no. 4, as by Gossart, for 4,010 marks to Riedel); private collection (until 1901; sale, Rudolf Bangel, Frankfurt, February 12, 1901, no. 17, as by Dürer); Jakob Emden, Hamburg; Hermann Emden, Hamburg (until 1910; sale, Lepke's, Berlin, May 3, 1910, no. 89); Benjamin Altman, New York (until d. 1913)
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. 89.

Kaspar Heinrich von Sierstorpff. Für die Kunstfreunde, welche meine kleine Gemälde-Sammlung besuchen wollen. Braunschweig, 1817, pp. 51–61, no. 4, as by Dürer.

G. Parthey. Deutscher Bildersaal. Vol. 1, A–K. Berlin, 1863, p. 362, no. 27, lists this picture among the works of Durer, bearing the artist's monogram and dated 1505; locates it in the von Sierstorpff collection, Driburg.

"Vom Kunstmarkt." Kunstchronik 22 (April 28, 1887), p. 478, list it as a work of Van Orley, "not Mabuse," in the von Sierstorpff sale.

Max J. Friedländer. "Bernaert van Orley: II. Orleys Tätigkeit zwischen 1515 und 1520." Jahrbuch der Königlich Preuszischen Kunstsammlungen 30 (1909), pp. 9–10, ill., dates it about 1514, connecting it with Van Orley's Altarpiece of the Apostles (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna).

[Hippolyte] Fierens-Gevaert. La peinture en Belgique: Les primitifs flamands. Vol. 3, Débuts du XVIe siècle: Fin de l'idéal gothique. Brussels, 1910, p. 230, dates it before 1514, observing in it the influence of Gerard David, Quentin Massys, and Jan Gossart.

Ernst Heidrich. Altniederländische Malerei. Jena, Germany, 1910, p. 50, fig. 135.

Martin Conway. The Van Eycks and Their Followers. London, 1921, p. 421, pl. 22, no. 4, date it at the end of van Orley's period from 1512–15.

François Monod. "La galerie Altman au Metropolitan Museum de New-York (1er article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 5th ser., 8 (September–October 1923), p. 194.

Friedrich Winkler. Die altniederländische Malerei: Die Malerei in Belgien und Holland von 1400–1600. Berlin, 1924, p. 258.

Willy Burger. Die Malerei in den Niederlanden 1400–1550. Munich, 1925, p. 134, as from the artist's early career.

Franz Dülberg. Niederländische Malerei der Spätgotik und Renaissance. Potsdam, 1929, pp. 155–56, ill., dates it roughly in the second decade of the 16th century.

Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 8, Jan Gossart Bernart van Orley. Berlin, 1930, pp. 88–89, 173, no. 124, pl. 87, dates it about 1513.

H[ans]. V[ollmer]. in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 26, Leipzig, 1932, p. 49.

Hans Tietze. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935, p. 335, pl. 145 [English ed., "Masterpieces of European Painting in America," New York, 1939, p. 319, pl. 145].

Ludwig Baldass. "Die Entwicklung des Bernart van Orley." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, n.s., 13 (1944), p. 164.

Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 143–45, ill., catalogue the picture and date it about 1513; note that the fountain is a reference to a metaphor for the Virgin in the Song of Songs, 4:15, where she is [according to contemporary interpretation] called "a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters".

Ernest Lotthé. La pensée chrétienne dans la peinture flamande et hollandaise. Lille, 1947, vol. 1, p. 130, pl. 102a, no. 305; vol. 2, p. 332.

Erik Larsen. Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York. Utrecht, 1960, pp. 95, 131, pl. 35.

Gert von der Osten and Horst Vey. Painting and Sculpture in Germany and the Netherlands 1500 to 1600. Baltimore, 1969, p. 145, pl. 141.

Max J. Friedländer et al. Early Netherlandish Painting. Vol. 8, Jan Gossart and Bernart van Orley. New York, 1972, pp. 56, 107, no. 124, pl. 110.

Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 205, 212, fig. 380 (color).

John David Farmer. "Bernard van Orley of Brussels." PhD diss., Princeton University, 1981, pp. 70–74, suggests a source for the composition in the final illustration of the Grimani Breviary, completed before 1520 by Bening's workshop; discusses the Marian symbolism.

Larry Silver. "Fountain and Source: A Rediscovered Eyckian Icon." Pantheon 41 (April–May–June 1983), pp. 101–103, ill., calls our picture an imaginative recreation of Jan van Eyck's 1439 Madonna of the Fountain (Koninklijk Museum, Antwerp).

Maryan W. Ainsworth, Selected by Guy C. Bauman, and Walter A. Liedtke in Flemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp, 1992, pp. 24, 126–28, no. 36, ill. (color, overall and detail), discusses the picture and its iconography in detail.

Leo Steinberg. The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion. 2nd revised ed. [first ed. 1983]. Chicago, 1996, p. 110, fig. 11 (detail), discusses at length the Christ Child's gesture, or the "chin-chuck," a sexual embrace present in ancient art; notes that in this context spiritual love is stressed, and Christ's role as the heavenly bridegroom with the Virgin as his bride .

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. 25, 85, 228, 342–44, ill. (color), compares it with the Virgin and Child in an Interior (National Gallery, London) which has been ascribed to Jacques Daret, suggesting that both works are examples of a "specific and long-standing iconographic type".

Charles Sterling and Maryan W. Ainsworth in The Robert Lehman Collection. Vol. 2, Fifteenth- to Eighteenth-Century European Paintings. New York, 1998, p. 24 n. 20.

Larry Silver. "Old-Time Religion: Bernart van Orley and the Devotional Tradition." Pantheon 56 (1998), pp. 81–82, ill., mentions that the "marked queenly character of the Virgin might well have been an homage to Margaret of Austria," likely the patron.

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