Late-fifteenth-century Netherlandish paintings frequently depict the Virgin and Child before a loggia, but in this version from the workshop of Dieric Bouts, the figures stand in front of a stone wall, and elevated above a landscape that stretches far into the distance. Christ plays with the big toe on his right foot, a motif that also appears in the Virgin and Child
from the workshop of Hans Memling (MMA 49.7.22
). This motif may have developed from an earlier prototype by Rogier van der Weyden to whom this painting was attributed when it was in the collection of the princes of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (Sprinson de Jesús 1998). This gesture possibly had symbolic meaning; it has been suggested that it could be an invitation to the viewer to follow in Christ’s footsteps (Mund et al. 2003). Christ holds a pink (a carnation), in his left hand, a motif that derives from the Greek name of the flower, dianthose
, meaning "flower of God." The pink, in medieval Flemish, was also known as a nagelbloem
, which is translated as "nail flower" or "spike flower." Therefore, the pink is also associated with the nails that held Christ to the cross, and may allude to his ultimate sacrifice for mankind. It is not uncommon for such innocent and tender images of the Virgin and Child to reference his eventual Crucifixion. The luxuriant attire of the Virgin—the fur trim of her overdress, the brocade sleeve, and the jeweled diadem she wears on her forehead—may be an indication of her role as the Queen of Heaven.
This painting is generally regarded as the finest surviving copy of a lost prototype by Bouts. Infrared reflectography has revealed evidence of an underdrawing created by design transfer, indicating that this painting is a copy from a standard workshop pattern. At least fifteen copies still exist, although not all of them are necessarily from the same workshop. Several have been ascribed to the Master of the Legend of Saint Lucy. A version in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, is very similar to this one, but has a less refined landscape background. Bouts’s prototype for these images was probably painted towards the end of his life, around 1475, and MMA panel was most likely produced shortly thereafter.
[2012; adapted from Sprinson de Jesús 1998]
Munich. Königliches Kunstausstellungsgebäude. "Gemälden älterer Meister," 1869, no. 54 (as by Rogier van der Weyden, lent by the Prince of Hohenzollern).
Munich. Alte Pinakothek. "The Sigmaringen Gallery," 1928, no catalogue?
New York. A. S. Drey. "Exhibition of Flemish Primitives from the Collection of the Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen," 1928, no. 4 (as by "Dierik Bouts?").
New York. F. Kleinberger Galleries. "Flemish Primitives," 1929, no. 16 (as by Dirk Bouts, lent by Ernst Rosenfeld).
Kansas City, Mo. Nelson Gallery and Atkins Museum. "Seventh Anniversary Exhibition of German, Flemish, and Dutch Painting," December 1940–January 1941, no. 6 (as by Dirk Bouts, lent by the Ernst Rosenfeld collection).
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. 50.
THIS WORK MAY NOT BE LENT, BY TERMS OF ITS ACQUISITION BY THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART.
F. A. von Lehner, ed. Fünfzig der bedeutenderen Gemälde zu Sigmaringen. Stuttgart, 1868, no. 34.
F. A. Lehner. Fürstlich Hohenzollern'sches Museum zu Sigmaringen: Verzeichniss der Gemälde. Sigmaringen, 1871, p. 12, no. 38.
J. A. Crowe and G. B. Cavalcaselle. The Early Flemish Painters. 2nd ed. London, 1872, pp. 225–26.
F. A. von Lehner. Fürstlich Hohenzollern'sches Museum zu Sigmaringen: Verzeichniss der Gemälde. 2nd ed. Sigmaringen, 1883, p. 13, no. 38.
foreword by [Wilhelm von] Bode. Königliche Museen zu Berlin: Beschreibendes Verzeichnis der Gemälde. 4th ed. Berlin, 1898, p. 38, under no. 545c, [and subsequent editions].
Paul Heiland. Dirk Bouts und die Hauptwerke seiner Schule. PhD diss., Kaiser Wilhelms-Universität, Strassburg. Potsdam, [1902?], p. 166.
Pol de Mont. Early Painters of the Netherlands. Berlin, 1909, p. 38.
Friedrich Winkler. Die altniederländische Malerei: Die Malerei in Belgien und Holland von 1400–1600. Berlin, 1924, p. 97.
Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 3, Dierick Bouts und Joos van Gent. Berlin, 1925, pp. 47–48, 126, no. 93a.
[A. L.] M[ayer]. "Die Fürstlich-Hohenzollernschen Sammlungen in Sigmaringen." Pantheon 1 (1928), ill. p. 64.
Wolfgang Schöne. Dieric Bouts und seine Schule. Berlin, 1938, pp. 136, 214–15, no. 145.
Hélène Adhémar. Le Musée National du Louvre, Paris. I [Les primitifs flamands, I: Corpus de la peinture des anciens pays-bas méridionaux au quinzième siècle, vol. 5]. Brussels, 1962, pp. 63–64, no. 2.
Max J. Friedländer et al. Early Netherlandish Painting. Vol. 3, Dieric Bouts and Joos van Gent. New York, 1968, pp. 29, 72, no. 93a, pl. 97.
Max J. Friedländer et al. Early Netherlandish Painting. Vol. 6, Hans Memlinc and Gerard David. New York, 1971, part 2, p. 131 n. 92, Veronée-Verhaegen finds our panel closer to the Master of Saint Lucy than the example of this composition, now in the Baltimore Museum of Art, that Friedländer called a replica by this artist (see his Refs. 1925 and 1968, no. 93c).
Dirk Bouts en zijn Tijd. Exh. cat., Sint-Pieterskerk. Louvain, 1975, p. 317.
Ann Michelle Roberts. "The Master of the Legend of Saint Lucy: A Catalogue and Critical Essay." PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1982, pp. 34, 65 n. 34, pp. 238–39, no. 22a, fig. 40, is inclined to agree with Veronée-Verhaegen (see Ref. 1971) in finding this panel close to the Master of the Legend of Saint Lucy, but hesitates to attribute it to the Master outright as she has not examined the picture.
Guy C. Bauman in The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, pp. 51–53, no. 16, ill. (color), discusses the history of the painting's attribution in detail; calls it the finest surviving workshop copy of a lost Bouts from his late years, 1470–75; considers the picture itself still later on the basis of the landscape style which would place it in the last quarter of the fifteenth century.
Guy Bauman in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1983–1984. New York, 1984, p. 50, ill.
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. 37, 209, 226–28, no. 50, ill. (color), places this panel in the last quarter of the fifteenth century and Bouts's lost prototype close to 1475.
Charles Sterling and Maryan W. Ainsworth in The Robert Lehman Collection. Vol. 2, Fifteenth- to Eighteenth-Century European Paintings. New York, 1998, p. 21.
Maurits Smeyers in Dirk Bouts (ca. 1410–1475): Een Vlaams primitief te Leuven. Ed. Maurits Smeyers. Exh. cat., Sint-Pieterskerk en Predikherenkerk, Leuven. Louvain, 1998, p. 411.
Maryan W. Ainsworth. "Some Theories about Paper and Parchment as Supports for Early Netherlandish Paintings." Le dessin sous-jacent et la technologie dans la peinture. Ed. Hélène Verougstraete et al. Colloque 12, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1999, p. 255, fig. 4.
Hélène Mund et al. The Mayer van den Bergh Museum, Antwerp. Brussels, 2003, pp. 125, 133, ill., discusses this painting in relation to other versions of the composition.