The Man of Sorrows

Aelbert Bouts (Netherlandish, Leuven ca. 1451/54–1549)

ca. 1525
Oil on wood
Arched top, 17 1/2 x 11 1/4 in. (44.5 x 28.6 cm)
Credit Line:
The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    Aelbert Bouts, one of Dieric's sons, is known for his gruesome renditions of devotional subjects painted by his father. The focus on Christ's pain and suffering, expressed in the prominently displayed wounds and blood-drenched face and neck, reflects the tenor of many devotional tracts of the period.

  • Catalogue Entry

    This image depicts Christ as the Man of Sorrows, wearing the crown of thorns and revealing the nail wounds on his hands from the Crucifixion. The composition is based on a lost prototype by Dieric Bouts. The MMA painting most likely was once joined with a Mourning Virgin to form a diptych (Sprinson de Jesús 1998). Many diptych copies of the lost original are extant, including one attributed to Dieric’s workshop (MMA 71.156–57). During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, such images served as objects of devotion that invited the viewer to empathize with Christ’s suffering and contemplate his salvation of humankind.

    Particular attention is given to the gruesomeness of Christ’s torture. His wounds are prominent and blood and tears drip down his face and neck. The emotionally charged pathos of this figure is more characteristic of paintings by Aelbert Bouts than those by his father Dieric. Aelbert was Dieric’s second son, and he continued his father’s successful painting workshop after the latter’s death in 1475. Aelbert’s and his assistants produced copies of his father’s most successful compositions, thereby contributing to their popularity in the Netherlands well into the sixteenth century. Infrared reflectography has revealed contour line underdrawing in the Metropolitan painting, restricted to the face and hands of the figure, which suggests a transfer from a workshop pattern.

    Valentine Henderiks (2011) has related the painting to the central panel of a triptych of a Sorrowing Christ, flanked by side panels of angels holding instruments of the Passion, attributed to Aelbert and sold at Sotheby’s, New York, in 1995. There are slight differences in the position of the head and hands between the two figures, but the most striking change is that Christ in the MMA panel has a more tortured expression. Henderiks speculates that this difference may indicate that it panel was intended for export to southern Europe, to a region which preferred greater pathos of expression.


  • Provenance

    Alfred Beurdeley, Paris (until 1920; his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, May 6–7, 1920, no. 138); [Kleinberger, New York]; Michael Friedsam, New York (until d. 1931)

  • Exhibition History

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Michael Friedsam Collection," November 15, 1932–April 9, 1933, no catalogue.

    Wooster, Ohio. Josephine Long Wishart Museum of Art. "Exhibition of Paintings of French, Italian, Dutch, Flemish and German Masters, lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 20–December 15, 1944, unnumbered cat. (p. 13).

    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, not in catalogue.

  • References

    Max J. Friedländer. "Dierick Bouts und Joos van Gent." Die altniederländische Malerei. 3, Berlin, 1925, p. 118, no. 63 B, pl. LX.

    Max J. Friedländer in The Michael Friedsam Collection. [completed 1928], p. 136, as "The Tortured Christ".

    Wolfgang Schöne. Dieric Bouts und seine Schule. Berlin, 1938, p. 199, no. 33.

    Ernest Lotthé. La pensée chrétienne dans la peinture flamande et hollandaise. Lille, 1947, vol. 2, pp. 257, 343, no. 608.

    Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 88–89, ill.

    Libuša Cidlinská. "Ecce homo zo zbierok Slovenskej národnej galérie [An Ecce Homo from the collection of the Slovak National Gallery (Bratislava)]." Ars 1, no. 2 (1967), pp. 161–64 n. 4, ill., compares it to an Ecce Homo by Aelbert Bouts in the Ruffo collection in Brussels (ill. p. 162); comments on the similar drapery in these pictures and in a workshop version in Bratislava (museum no. O 550; ill. p. 160).

    Max J. Friedländer et al. "Dieric Bouts and Joos van Gent." Early Netherlandish Painting. 3, New York, 1968, p. 67, no. 63b, pl. 77.

    Hélène Mund in Dirk Bouts (ca. 1410–1475): Een Vlaams primitief te Leuven. Exh. cat., Sint-Pieterskerk en Predikherenkerk, Leuven. Louvain, 1998, p. 566, mentions it in relation to the similar "Christ as Man of Sorrows" in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons, which she ascribes to Aelbert Bouts about 1500.

    Mary Sprinson de Jesús in From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1998, pp. 242, 405, ill.

    Burton L. Dunbar. The Collections of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: German and Netherlandish Paintings, 1450–1600. Kansas City, Mo., 2005, p. 182, fig. 13b.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History