This small devotional painting was most likely painted in Dieric Bouts’s workshop, which continued to operate after his death in 1475. It is based on his Virgin and Child from about 1465 in the National Gallery, London (Sprinson de Jesús 1998). The MMA work is painted with less skill than the London prototype, and is markedly similar to another replica, formerly in the Albenas collection, Montpellier (Florence Gould collection; sale, Sotheby’s, April 25, 1985). The flattened, heart-shaped face of the Virgin and her somewhat wooden hands lack the master’s skill evident in the subtle modeling of Bouts’s original design. In a simplification of the London prototype, the Museum's painting omits the landscape view out of a window behind the Virgin as well as the ledge with cushion upon which the child sits. The position of the child, however, was not altered to reflect the lack of the cushion support, and as a result, his body appears to be floating in space. The higher placement of the child in this version forced the draftsman to raise the Virgin’s breast to an unusually high position, just below her shoulder. These adjustments can be regarded as simplifications made to the original composition by an artist of inferior skill.
This Virgin and Child type known as the Maria lactans, or Virgin breastfeeding the Child, was Byzantine in origin and became especially popular in the Southern Netherlands in the late fifteenth century. Bouts’s compositions were inspired by those produced earlier by Rogier van der Weyden, and the numerous versions of Rogier’s compositions by Bouts and his workshop show the popularity of these relatively small works for private devotional practices. These paintings were meant to encourage the viewer to contemplate the incarnation of Christ and his salvation of mankind.
The underdrawing shows the rigid contour lines characteristic of a pattern transfer to produce the design, with some looser parallel hatching added to indicate the modeling of forms. Monnas (2008) describes the brocade pattern in the backdrop as a "pomegranate" pattern, which was used in several paintings from Bouts’s workshop, including the London prototype. Such designs could be reproduced within a workshop setting via the use of shared patterns. The simplification of the composition as well as the evidence of the use of pattern transfers indicate that this painting was among those produced quickly to respond to the demand for these popular images.
Gabriel Johann Peter Weyer, Cologne (in 1852; cat., , no. 180?); Prince Karl Anton von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (in 1871; cat., 1871, no. 29); the Princes of Hohenzollern, Königliches Museum, Sigmaringen; [A. S. Drey, Munich and New York, by 1925–28]; [Duveen, Paris and New York, 1928; sold for $200,000 to Bache]; Jules S. Bache, New York (1928–d. 1944; his estate, 1944–49; cats., 1929, unnumbered; 1937, no. 19; 1943, no. 18)
Munich. Königliches Kunstausstellungsgebäude. "Gemälden älterer Meister," 1869, no. 50 (as by Rogier van der Weyden, lent by the Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen).
Frankfurt. Städel Institut. 1925, no catalogue? (lent by A. S. Drey).
Munich. Alte Pinakothek. "The Sigmaringen Gallery," 1928, no catalogue? (lent by A. S. Drey).
New York. F. Kleinberger Galleries. "Flemish Primitives," 1929, no. 14 (as by Bouts, lent by Jules S. Bache).
Exposition universelle et internationale de Bruxelles. "Cinq siècles d'art," May 24–October 13, 1935, no. 78 (lent by Jules S. Bache).
New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300–1800," May–October 1939, no. 24 (lent by Jules S. Bache).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Bache Collection," June 16–September 30, 1943, no. 18.
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. 52.
Beschreibung des Inhaltes der Sammlung von Gemälden älterer Meister des Herrn Johann Peter Weyer in Coeln. Cologne, , p. 56, no. 180, as by an unknown painter.
F. A. Lehner. Fürstlich Hohenzollern'sches Museum zu Sigmaringen: Verzeichniss der Gemälde. Sigmaringen, 1871, p. 9, no. 29, as by Rogier van der Weyden.
Friedrich Winkler in "Vom neunten bis zum Ende des fünfzehnten Jahrhunderts." Belgische Kunstdenkmäler. Ed. Paul Clemen. Vol. 1, Munich, 1923, p. 254, as a characteristic work by Bouts.
Franz Rieffel. "Das Fürstlich Hohenzollernsche Museum zu Sigmaringen: Gemälde und Bildwerke." Städel-Jahrbuch 3–4 (1924), pl. 15, as by Bouts.
Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 3, Dierick Bouts und Joos van Gent. Berlin, 1925, p. 127, no. 95a, lists this painting and one in the Albenas collection among the works of the followers and imitators of Bouts.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Collection of Jules S. Bache. New York, 1929, unpaginated, ill.
Wilhelm R. Valentiner, ed. Unknown Masterpieces in Public and Private Collections. Vol. 1, London, 1930, no. 36, ill.
Leo van Puyvelde. "Les primitifs flamands à l'exposition de Bruxelles." Revue belge d'archéologie et d'histoire de l'art 5 (1935), p. 314, calls it the work of a follower of Rogier van der Weyden.
Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 14, Pieter Bruegel und Nachträge zu den früheren Bänden. Leiden, 1937, p. 91, observes that it can be recognized since cleaning as an original work of Dieric Bouts and calls the Albenas example somewhat weaker.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. under revision. New York, 1937, unpaginated, no. 19, ill.
Wolfgang Schöne. Dieric Bouts und seine Schule. Berlin, 1938, p. 215, no. 146.
Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941, unpaginated, no. 175, ill.
Harry B. Wehle. "The Bache Collection on Loan." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1 (June 1943), p. 288.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. rev. ed. New York, 1943, unpaginated, no. 18, ill.
Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 45–47, ill.
Erwin Panofsky. Early Netherlandish Painting: Its Origins and Character. Cambridge, Mass., 1953, vol. 1, p. 480 n. 2 (to p. 296), p. 492 n. 3 (to p. 317), states that it is erroneously ascribed to Bouts, and that it follows type of close-up Madonna portrayed by Saint Luke, listing examples of this type similar to ours; lists several Madonnas with neutral backgrounds as in ours, not attributable to Bouts.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 12.
Colin Eisler. "Erik Larsen, Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York, 1960." Art Bulletin 46 (March 1964), p. 102.
Max J. Friedländer et al. Early Netherlandish Painting. Vol. 3, Dieric Bouts and Joos van Gent. New York, 1968, pp. 73, 88–89 n. 75, no. 95a, pl. 98, calls it by a follower of Bouts (ed. since it has been cleaned it has been acknowledged to be an original Bouts).
Charles Sterling. Letter. February 20, 1971, states that it is by a follower of Bouts, and that the type of the Virgin, her hand, and the lyrical, slightly mannered feeling, are of the period of the Ursula Master, who worked after Bouts's death.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 250, 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. 71, 74, 230–31, no. 52, ill. (color), places it in the last quarter of the 15th century.
Important Old Master Pictures. Christie's, London. 1998, pp. 36–37, under no. 24, mention it in relation to the replica, formerly in the collection of Florence J. Gould.
Meryle Secrest. Duveen: A Life in Art. New York, 2004, p. 418.
Catheline Périer-d'Ieteren. Dieric Bouts: The Complete Works. Brussels, 2006, p. 161 n.1.
Lisa Monnas. Merchants, Princes and Painters: Silk Fabrics in Italian and Northern Paintings, 1300–1550. New Haven, 2008, p. 355 n. 83.