For a biography of Dieric Bouts, see the Catalogue Entry for Virgin and Child
The many surviving Virgin and Child paintings of the Burgundian Netherlands are often classified into two types originating from Byzantine formulae: the affectionate Virgin (Glykophilousa
; see, for example, 30.95.280
) and the breastfeeding Virgin (Galaktotrophousa
or Maria lactans
; for example, 49.7.18
). Unlike the two common types, in which the Christ Child is either kissing or suckling, the Christ Child of this panel is presented frontally, gazing amicably at the viewer, gently held in both arms by the Virgin. With his left hand, he playfully holds a pink (carnation), and with the thumb and the index finger of his right hand, he pinches his right big toe. Behind the half-length figure of the Virgin in a red cloak, and beyond a stone parapet, a lush landscape stretches to the horizon. The right edge of the painted surface, six millimeters in width, is a later addition, resulting in the current slightly off-center composition (see Technical Notes).
In this panel, the Child greets the beholder in a half-recumbent posture in the Virgin’s arms. Although this pose of the Child is relatively rare in early Netherlandish painting, many earlier examples are found in the works related to the so-called “Beautiful Style” in the late fourteenth- and early fifteenth centuries (for example, Saint Vitus Madonna
at the Národní Galerie, Prague; see fig. 1 above). Also in sculpture, the so-called Beautiful Madonna, an idealized standing Madonna and Child type, prevalent in central Europe around the year 1400, is often accompanied by the frontally-shown Child, gazing directly at the beholder.
The pink is called nagelbloem
(nail flower) in Middle Dutch (Koch 1964, p. 73), which, together with the red color of the Virgin’s cloak, a reminder of Christ’s blood, alludes to Christ’s eventual nailing to and death on the cross (Bauman 1984, p. 53; Sprinson 1998, p. 226). Compared to the more common motifs for the Infant, such as a bird or apple, the pink was relatively rare on both sides of the Alps in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Virgin and Child images. The floweret is found more often in contemporary secular images and has been regarded as a symbol of betrothal for both genders throughout the centuries (see, for example, 49.7.23
, or 14.40.622
The secular meaning of the pink does not necessarily contradict the above-mentioned symbolism of the Passion of Christ. Indeed, the Virgin has typologically been interpreted as the bride of Christ upon her Coronation after the Assumption (Song of Songs 4:8), suggesting that the pink in the Child’s hand hints at the celestial union of the two after their corporeal death. This may also explain the diadem with pearls on the Virgin’s forehead as a reference to the crown of the Queen of Heaven (Revelation 12:1–3). The heavenly status of the Virgin as Queen is often highlighted, for example, in fourteenth-century Bohemian Virgin and Child paintings, as is seen in The Met Virgin and Child Enthroned
), in which the bejeweled crown with a blue halo visually manifests it. The Met’s Bohemian panel also presents the Child with his hand holding his toe, albeit with the left hand, as in the Linsky panel. Nevertheless, the toe grabbing gesture is occasionally found from the thirteenth century onwards on both sides of the Alps (for example, see 41.100.35
), which makes it difficult to trace the iconographic origin and meaning of the gesture in this panel.
Some scholars have sought the source of the toe-grabbing Christ in a lost painting by Rogier van der Weyden (Bauman 1984, p. 53; Sprinson 1998, p. 226). Whereas the theory is purely conjectural, Rogerian pictorial elements are undeniably seen in this panel. For example, in the Pietà of the Miraflores Triptych
by Rogier (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin), the sorrowful Virgin in a red mantel holds the dead body of Christ, for which the red color plays a prime role iconographically in eliciting the viewer’s compassion. More importantly, the introduction of the panoramic landscape behind the close-up image of a half-length figure, replacing an abstract gold ground, was initiated by Rogier. As in his Braque Triptych
(Musée du Louvre, Paris; fig. 2), The Met’s panel presents the figures in the foreground, silhouetted against the rolling landscape beyond, without a middle ground to connect the two components. This compositional scheme was then popularized by Hans Memling for portraiture, which soon had a significant impact also on Italian painters as exemplified by the famous Mona Lisa
by Leonardo da Vinci (Museé du Louvre, Paris).
Still, the supposed Rogerian origin of The Met’s panel remains unestablished. For example, the Virgin and Child
attributed to Rogier (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; fig. 3), one of the two Rogerian paintings with the toe- or foot-grabbing gesture, shows a dissimilar style and composition from The Met’s panel. Although the Virgin and Child
attributed to Hugo van der Goes (Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main; fig. 4) is iconographically linked to The Met’s panel, nevertheless, it seems to have been executed later. Thus, it remains open to question whether the overall iconographic scheme of The Met’s panel is based on a specific earlier example or is an idiosyncratic combination of familiar motifs. Furthermore, since the original frame is lost, it is impossible to confirm if the Linsky panel was originally conceived as a single panel or was combined with donor portrait(s). Still, the symbolism of this painting is clear. The pink invests the Virgin and Child
with the double meaning, alluding to Mary’s sorrow over the Child’s earthly fate and the heavenly reunion of the two, thereby encapsulating his messianic role in the salvation of humankind and the Virgin’s sorrows and joys as the mother of Christ. The Child’s frontal gaze reminds the beholder of his deeds and invites them for prayer and devotion.The Attribution and Date:
As observed above, this Virgin and Child
is consistent with the tradition of early Netherlandish painting after Rogier van der Weyden. In the nineteenth century, therefore, it was quite logical that the panel was attributed to Rogier upon its sale to the collection of the princes of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (Lehner 1868; Lehner 1871), before which the provenance is unclear. Thereafter, the attribution to the Brussels master started to be questioned (Crowe and Cavalcaselle 1872; Lehner 1883). In a note of the 1883 catalogue, Ludwig Scheibler writes “more in the style of Bouts.” (Lehner 1883, p. 13) Since then, the panel has been generally attributed to the orbit of Dieric Bouts.
In 1896, a “Dopplegänger” panel of The Met’s panel was acquired from a Florentine art dealer by the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum, Berlin (currently in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin; fig. 5). The then-director of the museum Wilhelm von Bode was aware of the panel now at The Met but recognized it as a much weaker version of the Berlin panel. Bode’s judgment was repeated by the scholars of the following generation (Mont 1909; Friedländer 1925). Friedländer regarded the Berlin panel as being “entirely in Dieric’s style,” of which the “landscape, with its many straight lines, is somewhat weak,” thereby attributing it to a follower of Bouts. For him, The Met’s panel was “a weaker replica” (Friedländer 1925, pp. 47-48, 126; Friedländer 1968, p. 72). This judgment was overturned in Wolfgang Schöne’s monographic study on Dieric Bouts. To Schöne, the Linsky panel was “superior to the Berlin panel,” but still a copy based on a lost painting by Bouts, while the Berlin twin was “much weaker” with “a poorer landscape” (Schöne 1938, p. 214). Still, on stylistic grounds, the two scholars agreed that neither of the two paintings is by Dieric Bouts himself.
It should be noted that these two paintings are of the highest quality of the sixteen surviving copies and variations (Schöne 1938, pp. 214–15; Adhémar 1962, pp. 63–64; unpublished notes by Guy Bauman in curatorial file). Among them, a landscape background is found only in the New York-Berlin twins and in two distant variations. The panels show an association with typical Boutsian figural execution, exhibiting a luminous quality and subtleties in the modeling of the flesh tones achieved through the application of successive thin layers of glaze. This is evident when they are compared, for example, with the Louvre version (fig. 6).
Technical investigations lead us further to the genesis of the panel. Its infrared reflectogram shows no major reworkings in the underdrawing of the figures and no visible underdrawn lines for the landscape (see Technical Notes; fig. 7), suggesting perhaps that the painting was based on a drawn or painted model without a landscape. Likewise, the Berlin panel exhibits no major changes in the underdrawing in the figure and no underdrawing for the landscape. These observations allow us to deduce that the New York painting is not a copy of the Berlin panel and vice versa. Contrary to the nearly identical appearance of the Virgin and Child in each, the painted landscapes appear considerably different. The landscape on the right-hand side of the figures in the Berlin panel is left largely blank, at variance with the meticulous depiction of the pond behind the parapet in the New York panel.
The above observations demonstrate that the two panels were highly likely to have been executed based on an identical model without a landscape. The model could either have been a finished drawing with color instructions or a painted model, considering the matching colors in the figures in the twins. As is stipulated in Dieric Bouts’s own testament (transcribed in Schöne 1938, pp. 230–32), the stock of models and patterns were the valuable property of the master of a workshop, which was securely stored within the walls of the studio—lawsuits even occurred over their ownership. Since there is no other pair among the sixteen variations where the compositions match so closely, it is most probable that the two were executed in the same workshop. The underdrawing of the New York panel does not show any sign of tracing, despite a broken appearance in some lines, indicating that the underdrawing lines were highly likely copied freehand from the model (see Technical Notes).
Observed in detail, different “countenances” of the figures in the New York-Berlin panels are discernible in the painted layers. Overall, in the New York panel, contour lines and modelling are subtly achieved, whereas the Berlin twin exhibits a sharp delineation of the forms. For example, the blonde hair of both figures in the Berlin panel catches and reflects light sharply and the eyes of the Child show even a glass-like appearance (fig. 8), which differs from the depiction in Bouts’s autograph works (see, for example, 30.95.280
). The comparison of the fur lining of the Virgin’s sleeves in both panels exhibits the same brushwork but in seemingly different hues (fig. 9). The dissimilarity of the execution in the two panels is prominent in the drapery contours of the red cloak of the Virgin. The Berlin panel exhibits extensive use of sharp long black lines to delineate the drapery folds, whereas in The Met panel the black lines are combined with modeling in different shades of red. This results in a softer and more voluminous impression of the red cloak in the New York Virgin, even though the draperies are shown in the same pattern in both panels. The above observations suggest that the twins were executed by two different artists in the same workshop.
Who were the artists of the two similar paintings? Although sometimes the panels have been connected to the group of the Master of the Legend of Saint Lucy (see the note by Veronée-Verhaegen in Friedländer 1971, p. 131; Roberts 1982, p.34, 65, 239–39), the x-radiographs suggest the kinship of the two panels to the style of Dieric Bouts (fig. 10). The selective application of lead white in the handling of the paint in the flesh tones is comparable to the autograph painting by Bouts (see 30.95.280
), and it seems that the painter of 1982.60.16 still follows the Boutsian buildup of paint layers (see Technical Notes). The unpublished x-radiograph of the Berlin twin reveals a markedly similar distribution of lead white as in the New York panel, showing that both painters were familiar with Boutsian technique.
Dendrochronology was not possible for this panel due to the auxiliary wood strips on the edges (see Technical Notes). The dendrochronology of the Berlin twin, on the other hand, suggests that the oak tree was felled around 1435 and thus the painting was executed in 1437 or after. The results suggest, at least, the possibility that it may have been made before the death of Dieric Bouts in 1475. However, little more about the origin of the twins can be shown by this methodology in this case because dendrochronology only provides the terminus post quem
. It is indeed not rare to find a significant time gap between the felling date of the support and the actual execution in a painter’s studio.
Unless the lost painted prototype resurfaces, discussions concerning attribution can hardly be advanced beyond this point. The Met’s panel, together with the Berlin twin, is the finest rendition among the sixteen variations of this Virgin and Child type. This attests to the popularity of this unique composition, of which the lost original must have been created by a famous master. Given the stylistic and technical evidence discussed above, it seems still reasonable to attribute The Met’s panel to the workshop of Dieric Bouts. In fact, as evidenced in the case of Petrus Christus, who was commissioned to paint three Virgin and Child panels based on the so-called Cambrai Madonna
, it was not rare to execute multiple paintings of the same design in one campaign in the Burgundian Netherlands. Whether on commission or not, the New York-Berlin paintings were probably executed in the workshop of Dieric Bouts by two assistants, perhaps simultaneously, and probably based on the prototype prepared by the master himself. Although it is tempting to attribute one to Dieric the Younger and the other to Albrecht, who were both trained under their father, our knowledge of the Bouts workshop is still too limited to allow such speculation. Moreover, it is impossible for now to pin down the execution date of The Met’s Virgin and Child
and its Berlin twin, except to say that they were most probably produced in the last quarter of the fifteenth century.
Sumihiro Oki 2022
 See, for example, Timothy Husband, “A Beautiful Madonna in the Cloisters Collection,” in Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin
28 (February 1970), pp. 278–90.
 See Robert A. Koch, “Flower Symbolism in the Portinari Altar,” in Art Bulletin
46 (1964), p. 73.
 See examples in Dorothy C. Shorr, The Christ Child in Devotional Images in Italy During the XIV Century
, New York 1954; Dirk de Vos, “De Madonna-en-Kindtypologie bij Rogier van der Weyden en enkele minder gekende Flemalleske voorlopers,” in Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen
13 (1971), pp. 60–161. On this matter, Sprinson (1998) is incorrect.
 See Art and Love in Renaissance Italy
, ed. Andrea Bayer, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2008, p. 20; Jennifer Meagher, “Botanical Imagery in European Painting.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/bota/hd_bota.htm (August 2007)
 It should be noted that the description in Exodus 29:20 matches The Met panel’s gesture. “And when thou hast sacrificed him [the ram], thou shalt take of his blood, and put upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron and of his sons, and upon the thumbs and great toes of their right hand and foot, and thou shalt pour the blood upon the altar round about.” (Douay-Rheims Bible)
 See Rainald Grosshans, “Rogier van der Weyden. Der Marienaltar aus der Kartause Miraflores,” in Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen
, 23 (1981), pp. 49–112, esp. pp. 61–62.
 See Paula Nuttall, From Flanders to Florence.The Impact of Netherlandish Painting, 1400–1500
, New Haven 2004, pp. 192–229. Another example last surfaced at an auction in Paris in 2002. See: https://rkd.nl/explore/images/50738
 Closely observed, the Frankfurt panel seems to have been painted later than The Met’s panel. In Hugo’s work, the Infant holds in his right hand an unidentifiable grass instead of his big toe. The grass seems to be rather a “filler motif” that is devoid of any symbolic meaning but was necessary when the painter changed the position of the leg of the Child from the toe-grabbing gesture. On this works, see Jochen Sander, Niederländische Gemälde im Städel, 1400–1550
. Mainz, 1993, pp. 264–81.
 One is now in M—Museum Leuven, inv. S/47/B. The whereabouts of the other painting (Schöne 1938, no. 145h), a copy of the Leuven panel on canvas, are unknown.
 The author is grateful to Dr. Stephan Kemperdick and Dr. Katrin Dyballa for generously sharing the IRR and x-ray images of the Berlin panel as well as the manuscript for the forthcoming Gemäldegalerie’s collection catalog of early Netherlandish painting.
 See Maryan W. Ainsworth, Facsimile in Early Netherlandish Painting: Dieric Bouts's "Virgin and Child"
, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1993, p. 10 [hereafter Ainsworth 1993]; Maryan W. Ainsworth, Gerard David. Purity of Vision in an Age of Transition
, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1998, p. 7.
 On the variation of copying methods, see Maryan W. Ainsworth, “Northern Renaissance Drawings and Underdrawings: A Proposed Method of Study,” in Master Drawings
, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Spring, 1989), pp. 5–38, esp. p. 11. The difference is clear in comparison with the transferred underdrawing in 71.156–57.
 The Met Glykophilousa
by Bouts himself and its identical-looking copies show quite different handling of the paint (see, again, 30.95.280
). On the comparison with the copies, see Ainsworth 1993, pp. 12–14.
 Curatorial file 545C, Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. The author is grateful to Dr. Stephan Kemperdick for granting access to it.
 Peter Klein’s report in 2017 in curatorial file 545C, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.
 See Ainsworth 1993, p.5; Maximiliaan P.J. Martens, “Petrus Christus: A Cultural Biography,” in Maryan W. Ainsworth, Petrus Christus. Renaissance Master of Bruges
, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1994, pp. 15–16. We also know that Jean de Beaumetz, the court painter of Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, was commissioned twenty-six crucifixions for the monks in the Charterhouse of Champmol. See Johan Maelwael, ed. Pieter Roelofs, exh.cat., Rijksmuseum Amsterdam 2017, cat. entry by Matthias Ubl, nos. 11–12, pp. 102–3.