Flanked by music-making angels, the Virgin and Child appear in a chapel. Based on a lost original of about 1420, this picture is among the earliest of over sixty variants that attest to the burgeoning cult of the Virgin during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in the Burgundian Netherlands.
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Fig. 1. Follower of Robert Campin, “Virgin and Child in an Apse,” ca. 1480, oil on wood, 46 x 34 cm, (formerly Hester Diamond Collection, New York)
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Fig. 2. Master of Flémalle, “Madonna Before a Grassy Bench,” ca. 1420, oil on wood, 39.2 x 27 cm, (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)
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Fig. 3. Follower of Robert Campin, "Madonna and Child with Saints in an Enclosed Garden," ca. 1440–60, oil on wood, painted surface: 119.8 x 148.5 cm (National Gallery of Art, Washington)
Fig. 4. X-radiograph of 05.39.2
Fig. 5. Infrared reflectogram of 05.39.2
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Title:Virgin and Child in an Apse
Artist:Copy after Robert Campin (Netherlandish, ca. 1480)
Medium:Oil on canvas, transferred from wood
Dimensions:17 3/4 x 13 1/2 in. (45.1 x 34.3 cm)
Credit Line:Rogers Fund, 1905
The Painting: In a small apsidal chapel, the Virgin Mary tenderly embraces the Christ Child while nursing him. She wears a blue underdress beneath a very pale blue robe and mantle. Her long, curly hair cascades down her shoulders. The motif of the Christ Child suckled in his mother’s arms derives from thirteenth century Byzantine icons, specifically the type known as the galactrophousa (or by its Latin name, Virgo lactans), which were imported to the Burgundian Netherlands in the fifteenth century. In terms of late medieval thought, the nursing Virgin was considered an intercessor for humankind. In the popular Speculum Humanae Salvationis (ca. 1324), for example, Christ intercedes before God the Father by showing his wounds, and the Virgin does so by showing her bared breasts, thus equating the blood of Christ with the milk of the Virgin. Centrally located within a confined space, the Virgin personifies the Church and the Ara Coeli, the tabernacle for the body and blood of Christ (Ainsworth 1996). Lievens-de Waegh (1991, p. 108) considered the Virgin’s crossed arms as a reference to Christ’s sacrifice. The cloth enveloping the Child thus could allude both to the shroud used to wrap Christ’s body at his Entombment and to the altar cloth on which the sacramental host is displayed. The Eucharistic suggestion is further amplified by the liturgical vestments of the music-making angels, including a deacon’s cope worn by the angel at the right, fastened by a morse decorated with a Virgin and Child and an angel.
The lute and harp-playing angels suggest the musical accompaniment to hymns sung to the Virgin. Well-known examples such as the Ave Regina Coelorum, the Mater Regis Angelorum, and the Salve Sancta Christi Parens were dedicated to the nursing Virgin. Extolling her mercy, charity, and kindness, these hymns referenced the Virgin as the key intercessor for humankind, particularly here as she holds the sacrificial Christ in her arms. The Quem terra, pontus, sidera hymn that was recited at Matins in the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, relates to the Virgin and Child in an Apse as it references the Virgin as a shrine, exalting her as the vessel of Christ, who nurtures the Son of God through her heavenly grace. In the words of the hymn:
How blest that Mother, in whose shrine The great Artificer divine, Whose hand contains the earth and sky, Vouchsafed, as in his ark to lie.
The Virgin thus embraces the Christ Child, poised between heaven (perhaps indicated by the Virgin’s little finger pointed upward) and earth.
The lute and harp-playing angels represent the choirs of heaven praising the Virgin and Child. Specifically, the lute and the harp were known as bas instruments, that is, those possessing a soft, timbre. According to what is known about the development of Renaissance instruments, both the lute and the harp here appear to be fairly accurate in their representation. The lute is an ordinary five- or six-stringed instrument, played with a plectrum, usually a piece of quill. However, the frets around the neck of the lute are not visible, and the position of the tuning screws is not realistic (Moens 2022). On the other hand, the harp is quite accurately depicted. It is a diatonic harp with sixteen strings and without separate strings for sharps or flats. The pitch could be raised by a semitone using the fingernail to slightly shorten the length of the string. The tuning pins are probably made of bone. The strings were normally anchored with a button or a piece of wood in holes in the middle of the soundboard and held in place with a pin. In this case, the soundboard pins are again white, which may mean that they are made of bone. They are not ordinary straight pins here, but small hooks. One end is located in the hole in the soundboard and the other end just about touches the string, without shortening it. When the string vibrates, it does so against the hook, which generates a buzzing sound and produces additional harmonics. This makes the harp sound much louder. These hook-shaped “buzz” pins appear frequently on late-medieval harps (Moens 2022).
The Met’s painting has sometimes been called the Virgin of Salamanca because it was erroneously believed to have been painted in that Spanish city, in addition to possibly having been acquired there (see Provenance). Robinson (1905) proposed a semi-circular apse in Seo Vièjo, the Old Cathedral of Salamanca, as the exact model for the architecture, but in reality there is no particular resemblance. It is difficult to account for the enormous popularity of the Virgin and Child in an Apse, which is known in over sixty surviving versions, all dating from the late fifteenth into the early sixteenth centuries (for a partial list, see Lievens-de Waegh, 1991, p. 113–18). Quite possibly, the original painting was known for miracles associated with it or for indulgences attached to it. Or perhaps the image was linked with the relics of the Virgin’s milk that were housed in churches in Flanders, notably at Saint Donatian’s Church in Bruges among others.
The Attribution and Date: From its earliest mention in 1904 by the English painter, critic, and Old Master scholar, Roger Fry, who acquired the work for The Met (Spaulding 1980), the this painting has been attributed to Robert Campin, otherwise known as the Master of Flémalle. Thereafter, most of the scholarly discussion about it has been focused on whether The Met painting is the original or a later copy, and consequently whether it dates early or late in the fifteenth century (see especially Friedländer 1967, Lievens-de Waegh 1991, and other References). The Met's work, as well as one formerly in the Hester Diamond Collection (see fig. 1 above), are now uniformly acknowledged as those likely to be closest to the lost original composition (Ainsworth 1996). Both paintings show the hallmarks of Campin’s early style—the oval-faced Virgin, the pearly tone of her skin, her thick wavy hair, and the sculptural folds of the drapery. Kemperdick (2008) has drawn attention to the similarity between The Met’s painting and the figure types in the Master of Flémalle’s Madonna Before a Grassy Bench (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin; fig. 2), dating around 1420. The physiognomies of the two Virgins are generally comparable as are the round heads of the two chubby Christ Child figures. One of the later versions of the Virgin and Child in an Apse in Zagreb is inscribed with the monogram VE (perhaps for Jan van Eyck to whom it was initially attributed when first discussed in 1863) and the date 1420. This was possibly the date of the lost Campin original. The Madonna and Child with Saints in an Enclosed Garden of about 1440–60 (National Gallery of Art, Washington; fig. 3) after Campin (or the Master of Flémalle, see Kemperdick 2008, pp. 243–45) shows a Virgin whose physiognomy is even closer to that of the Virgin in The Met painting. This indicates the continuation of the popularity of the Campin signature style into the later part of the fifteenth century.
Because The Met’s painting has been transferred from wood to canvas (see Technical Notes), dendrochronology could not be carried out. However, it bears a close stylistic similarity to the version formerly in the Hester Diamond Collection, New York (fig. 1) that could be dated. Both paintings show a very similar preparation of the composition in the brush underdrawing that secured the contours of the figures and worked in the volumes of the draperies and the system of shading with even parallel strokes in a diagonal direction. Moreover, the use of lead white, restricted mostly to the highlights of the faces of the figures—at the forehead, down the bridge of the nose, at the chin, and more broadly applied in the cheeks—is comparable, as is the accentuation of the peaks of folds in the garments of the figures (Ainsworth 1996 and Technical Notes). According to Peter Klein, the felling date of the tree from which the panel of the formerly Diamond Collection painting was derived is most plausibly 1477 upward, and with a storage time of two years, the painting’s creation could have occurred anytime from 1479 on (see Technical Notes). Because of the close similarity of this painting to The Met version in style and technique—perhaps even from the same workshop—a comparable date of about 1480 may be deduced for the latter.
Other versions of the Virgin and Child in an Apse show a development in the composition and the relationship of the figures to each other that is increasingly more expansive. Associated paintings can be found in numerous collections, including the National Gallery in London, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. Variations of the composition, which generally date from about 1480 to 1530, show the figures in a larger and more open architectural space, with added elements such as flowers or animals, and a view that is altered to appear straight-on, rather than from above as in The Met and formerly Diamond Collection paintings (Ainsworth 1996). Later examples even add a landscape background (Urbach 2001). Paintings that are based loosely on this composition were produced in the workshops of important Netherlandish artists such as Gerard David (ca. 1460–1523), Quentin Massys (1465/66–1530) and Bernard van Orley (ca. 1492–1541/42), indicating continued interest in the model in the key artistic centers of Bruges, Antwerp, and Brussels into the early sixteenth century. Despite the diverse settings for the Virgin and Child in these many variations, the central motif endured as a sign of its significant spiritual power and devotional impact as a cult image throughout the decades.
Maryan W. Ainsworth 2022
 Maryan W. Ainsworth, “À la façon grèce: The Encounter of Northern Renaissance Artists with Byzantine Icons,” in Helen Evans, ed., Byzantium: Faith and Power, 1261–1557, exh. cat. New York, The Met (March 23–July 4, 2004), New Haven, 2004, pp. 545–55, 572–73.  Millard Meiss, “The Madonna of Humility,” Art Bulletin 18, no. 4 (1936), p. 460.  K. Smits, De Iconografie van de Nederlandse Primitiven, Amsterdam, 1933, pp. 141–44.  C. Purtle, The Marian Paintings of Jan van Eyck, New Jersey, 1982, p. 179.  E. A. Bowles, “Haut and Bas: The Grouping of Musical Instruments in the Middle Ages,” Musica Disciplina. A Journal of the History of Music 8 (1954), pp. 115–40; and E. A. Bowles, La Pratique musicale au moyen age / Musical Performance in the Late Middle Ages, Geneva, 1983.  For the representation of musical instruments in late fifteenth-century paintings, see most recently, Karel Moens, “Music and Musical Instruments in Memling’s ‘God the Father with Singing and Music-Making Angels’” in Lizet Klaassen and Dieter Lampens, eds., Harmony in Bright Colors, Memling’s God the Father with Singing and Music-Making Angels, Turnhout, 2021 pp. 227–45.  Davies 1953, p. 61.  Antonius Sanderus, Flandria illustrata: Sive descriptio comitatus istius, 2 vols., Cologne, 1641–44, vol. 2, pp. 78ff, listed these among the relics at Saint Donatian; see also Jacques Toussaert, Le sentiment religieux en Flandre à la fin du Moyen Âge, Paris, 1963, p. 292.  See Vandura 1988.
Support: Before entering The Met’s collection, the painting was transferred from its original wood panel to canvas and stretched onto a stretcher. In 1958, the transferred painting on canvas was removed from its stretcher and wax-lined onto a 7 mm thick Masonite board.
Unfortunately, much information was lost when the painting was transferred; however, it appears that the original edges of the composition were nearly preserved during the transfer process. A partial barbe can be seen at the lower edge, and in the x-radiograph there is a slight increase in radio-opacity at all edges of the original painting, as can be characteristic of the appearance of a barbe (see fig. 4 above). Furthermore, the cropping of the composition is comparable to some of the other versions, notably those that are dated the earliest, including the Virgin and Child in an Apse formerly in the collection of Hester Diamond (fig. 1) and the Virgin and Child in an Apse with Two Angels in the National Gallery, London (NG 2608; see Catalogue Entry).
When the painting was transferred, the new support was larger than the painted composition, so a new white ground was applied to the margins, now covered by the frame but evident in the photograph.
Preparation: The original panel was prepared with a white ground. Examination with infrared reflectography revealed an extensive underdrawing executed using a liquid material and, seemingly, a brush (fig. 5). Most of the important contours of the composition appear to have been underdrawn, with more attention given to the drapery, where the shading was indicated with parallel, orderly, diagonal strokes. Indeed, the underdrawing is generally quite neat in appearance; there is no sign that the design was mechanically transferred but nor does it appear that the artist worked out his composition on the panel from scratch. This underdrawing could very well be a freehand copy of an existing composition. The painting follows the underdrawing faithfully overall, with only a few very minor adjustments to contours, such as the placement of the drapery folds.
Paint Layers: The artist achieved a sculptural effect in his figures by shading their fleshtones with a small amount of grey paint, and using nearly pure whites for highlights and occasionally adding black painted contours. In the x-radiograph, the targeted use of lead white can be seen in the highlighted regions. The paint is highly blended giving a very smooth appearance to both fleshtones and drapery.
It appears that only a few minor changes were made during the painted stages, for example, the fingers of the angel at right and the red robe of the angel at the left. Also, the Virgin’s little finger was slightly adjusted to emphasize the gesture upward.
There are several instances of gilding, including the hems of robes and the halos, which appears to be shell gold. The gold is rubbed to varying degrees, but it all appears to be original and not reinforced.
The condition of the painting is generally quite good, especially considering the transfer. There is some abrasion in the brown passages, particularly in the hair of the angel at the left. There are some minor paint losses in the green passages; it seems that there was a history of lifting paint in these colors. Otherwise, there are only some scattered losses.
There appears to be a faded red lake in the Virgin’s mantle, which would make it a pale purple originally. The Virgin’s mantle in the National Gallery version is also pale purple in color (Campbell 1998, p. 100).
It is important to note that the varnish is discolored and in an uneven, patchy manner. The discolored varnish is not immediately apparent in the sympathetic lighting in the galleries but does detract from the pearlescent tonality of the fleshtones and generally cool palette of the entire painting.
Sophie Scully 2022
 Infrared reflectography was acquired with an OSIRIS InGaAs near-infrared camera fitted with a 6-element, 150mm focal length f/5.6–f/45 lens; 900-1700nm spectral response, April 2022.
Sir John Charles Robinson, London, and Newton Manor, Swanage, Dorset (possibly acquired in Spain [Salamanca?]; by 1892–at least 1904); [Dowdeswell and Dowdeswell, London, 1905; sold to Roger Fry for The Met]
London. Burlington Fine Arts Club. "Masters of the Netherlandish and Allied Schools of XV. and Early XVI. Centuries," 1892, no. 32a (as Later School of Roger van der Weyden [?], lent by Sir J. C. Robinson).
London. New Gallery. "Exhibition of Pictures by Masters of the Flemish and British Schools," 1899–1900, no. 45 (as by an Early Flemish Master Working in Spain, lent by Sir Charles Robinson).
London. Burlington Fine Arts Club. "Pictures, Decorative Furniture, and Other Works of Art," 1904, no. 6 (as by the Maître de Flémalle, lent by Sir J. C. Robinson).
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. 47.
Roger Fry. Athenæum (December 17, 1904), p. 851, considers it an original work by the Master of Flémalle.
J. C. Robinson. "The 'Virgin of Salamanca' by the Maître de Flémalle." Burlington Magazine 7 (June 1905), p. 238, ill. p. 239, states that this picture was acquired in Spain "many years ago," and attributes it to the Master of Flémalle.
C. J. Holmes. "Three New Pictures for the Metropolitan Museum of New York." Burlington Magazine 8 (1905), pp. 350–51, ill.
J. C. Robinson. "The 'Maître de Flemalle' and the Painters of the School of Salamanca." Burlington Magazine 7 (August 1905), pp. 387–88, 393, notes that many copies and versions exist; claims that the setting is the apse of the Old Cathedral of Salamanca, and on the basis of this and of the use of white and blue for the Virgin's robes concludes that the Master of Flémalle at least visited Salamanca.
"An Early French Master." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1 (January 1906), p. 28.
Sir W. Martin Conway. "Durer's Works in Their Order." Burlington Magazine 13 (April 1908), p. 214, states that our version of this composition may be the original.
Morton H. Bernath. New York und Boston. Leipzig, 1912, pp. 54–55, ill.
Friedrich Winkler. Der Meister von Flémalle und Rogier van der Weyden. Strasbourg, 1913, pp. 7–9, considers our version the original, and notes that the apse is too generalized to be connected with the Salamanca Cathedral or with a type confined to Spain [see Ref. Robinson 1905].
Martin Conway. The Van Eycks and Their Followers. London, 1921, pp. 114–16, pl. IV, no. 4, considers it likely that our panel and the version in the National Gallery, London, come from Campin's shop; notes that the white-robed Virgin is often characteristic of Madonna pictures painted for Spain, and that the two music-making angels have a source in Italian art.
Friedrich Winkler. Die altniederländische Malerei: Die Malerei in Belgien und Holland von 1400–1600. Berlin, 1924, p. 70, refers to our picture as possibly the original.
Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 2, Rogier van der Weyden und der Meister von Flémalle. Berlin, 1924, pp. 75, 114–16, no. 74c, lists it among many known copies of a picture, no longer extant, painted about 1428 by the Master of Flémalle; considers those examples which, like ours, show the architecture in a perspective seen from above, nearest to the source picture, and supposes that the painting in the Julius Weitzner Gallery, New York, in 1967 [collection Hester Diamond, New York, 2002] gives the best idea of the original.
Willy Burger. Die Malerei in den Niederlanden 1400–1550. Munich, 1925, p. 41, pl. 29, considers it the work of a pupil recording a lost work by the Master of Flémalle.
Jules Destrée. "Le Maître dit de Flémalle: Robert Campin." Revue de l'art ancien et moderne 54 (1928), p. 114, refers to the group of replicas as recording a lost work by the Master.
[Hippolyte] Fierens-Gevaert. Histoire de la peinture flamande des origines à la fin du XVe siècle. Vol. 2, Les continuateurs des Van Eyck. Paris, 1928, pp. 9–10, 21–22, mentions it as one of many replicas of a lost original by Campin and cites Friedländer's date of 1428 for the source work [see Ref. 1924].
August Schmarsow. Robert van der Kampine und Roger van der Weyden: Kompositionsgesetze des Mittelalters in der Nordeuropäischen Renaissance. Leipzig, 1928, pp. 38–40.
Germain Bazin. "L'Esprit d'imitation dans l'art flamand: le thème de la Madone dans une abside." L'Amour de l'art 12 (1931), p. 495, fig. 55.
Emile Renders. La Solution du problème Van der Weyden-Flémalle-Campin. Bruges, 1931, pp. 66–68.
Max J. Friedländer. "Über den Zwang der Ikonographischen Tradition in der Vlämischen Kunst." Art Quarterly 1 (1938), p. 22, places the prototype, generally ascribed to the Master of Flémalle, in the first decade of the 15th century.
Alan Burroughs. Art Criticism from a Laboratory. Boston, 1938, pp. 210–11, considers the original prototype a youthful work by Campin.
Charles de Tolnay. Le Maître de Flémalle et les frères van Eyck. Brussels, 1939, p. 59, no. 1, mentions our picture as the best copy of the Campin composition.
Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 26–28, ill., as Workshop of Robert Campin.
Ernest Lotthé. La pensée chrétienne dans la peinture flamande et hollandaise. Lille, 1947, vol. 1, pp. 112–13.
Ludwig Baldass. Jan van Eyck. New York, 1952, p. 16 n. 1, p. 17 n. 1, calls Campin's lost original a work of the "second decade" and observes that it must have been executed "almost at the same time" as the central panel of the Seilern triptych.
J. V. L. Brans. Isabel la Católica y el arte hispano-flamenco. Madrid, 1952, p. 107 n. 13, lists a painting in the posthumous inventory of the possessions of Queen Isabella with the same theme as the Virgin of Salamanca, noting that our example of the Campin composition came from Spain.
Erwin Panofsky. Early Netherlandish Painting: Its Origins and Character. Cambridge, Mass., 1953, vol. 1, pp. 175, 352–53, 426 n. 2 (to p. 175); vol. 2, pl. 104, fig. 222, calls the composition an early work by the Master of Flémalle, of which ours is the best replica, and notes Gerard David's and Quentin Massys's adaptations of this composition.
Martin Davies. The National Gallery, London [Les primitifs flamands, I: Corpus de la peinture des anciens pays-bas méridionaux au quinzième siècle, 3]. Vol. 1, Antwerp, 1953, p. 62, mentions our picture in an extensive discussion of the version in the National Gallery, accepting the view that they are based on a lost prototype by Campin; dismisses Robinson's connection of the apse with the Old Cathedral of Salamanca [see Notes] and observes that it was not only in Spain that the Virgin was represented in white.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 16.
Ruth Massey Tovell. Roger van der Weyden and the Flémalle Enigma. Toronto, 1955, p. 32, refers to it as a work by Rogier van der Weyden.
Erik Larsen. Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York. Utrecht, 1960, pp. 48–49, 112, fig. VII, refers to it as "if not the original, the best of the known copies," and dates the composition considerably earlier than 1428.
Colin Eisler. "Erik Larsen, Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York, 1960." Art Bulletin 46 (March 1964), p. 101.
Mojmír S. Frinta. The Genius of Robert Campin. The Hague, 1966, p. 115, considers our picture and one in the Weitzner Gallery, New York [now Diamond collection, New York] the best of the variants.
Max J. Friedländer et al. Early Netherlandish Painting. Vol. 2, Rogier van der Weyden and the Master of Flémalle. New York, 1967, pp. 43, 74–75, no. 74c, pl. 101, lists the copies and their whereabouts.
Charles D. Cuttler. Northern Painting from Pucelle to Bruegel. New York, 1968, p. 82, calls it an early shop copy of a work by Campin.
Denys Sutton, ed. Letters of Roger Fry. New York, 1972, vol. 1, pp. 26, 245 n. 4 to letter no. 164 (December 11, 1905), p. 255 n. 1 to letter no. 177 (March 2, 1906).
Martin Davies. Rogier van der Weyden: An Essay, with a Critical Catalogue of Paintings Assigned to Him and to Robert Campin. London, 1972, pp. 253, 260.
Grands noms, grandes figures du Musée de Lille, I: La Collection d'Alexandre Leleux. Exh. cat.Lille, 1974, p. 109, cites this Master of Flémalle composition as the prototype for a work after Joos van Cleve in the Musée de Lille.
Frances Spalding. Roger Fry: Art and Life. Berkeley, 1980, p. 91, notes that this painting was acquired during Fry's first year at the Metropolitan.
Elisa Bermejo. La pintura de los primitivos flamencos en España. Vol. 1, Madrid, 1980, p. 93, as apparently coming from Spain at the end of the nineteenth century.
Larry Silver in Franklin W. Robinson and William H. Wilson. Catalogue of the Flemish and Dutch Paintings, 1400–1900. Sarasota, 1980, unpaginated, fig. 9a, mentions it in cataloguing the version in the Ringling Museum.
Vinko Zlamalik. Strossmayerova Galerija Starih Majstora Jugoslavenske Akademije Znanosti i Umjetnosti. Zagreb, 1982, p. 302.
Larry Silver. "Fountain and Source: A Rediscovered Eyckian Icon." Pantheon 41 (April–May–June 1983), pp. 101–3, ill.
John Pope-Hennessy. "Roger Fry and The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Oxford, China, and Italy: Writings in Honour of Sir Harold Acton on his Eightieth Birthday. Ed. Edward Chaney and Neil Ritchie. London, 1984, pp. 230, 236, notes that Fry transferred this picture from panel to canvas, as he considered works on panel to be at "a serious disadvantage".
Duro Vandura. Nizozemske Slikarske Skole u Strossmayerovoj Galeriji, Starih Majstora Jugoslavenske Akademije Znanosti i Umjetnosti. Zagreb, 1988, pp. 114–16, ill., publishes a version of this composition in a Zagreb collection signed with the monogram "VIE?" and dated 1420, perhaps referring to the date of the prototype.
Hans J. van Miegroet. Gerard David. Antwerp, 1989, p. 280.
Marie-Léopoldine Lievens-de Waegh. Le Musée National d'Art Ancien et le Musée National des Carreaux de Faïence de Lisbonne [Les primitifs flamands, I: Corpus de la peinture des anciens pays-bas méridionaux au quinzième siècle, vol. 16]. Brussels, 1991, vol. 1, p. 113, interprets the crossed arms of the Virgin as an allusion to Christ's sacrifice; believes that panels like this one with the apse seen from above, a frontal Virgin and lute player, and the harpist in profile were at the beginning of the composition's evolution.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 244, ill.
Albert Châtelet. Robert Campin, Le Maître de Flémalle: La fascination du quotidien. Antwerp, 1996, pp. 162, 308–9, no. C4a, ill. pp. 163, 308, dates it "about 1420–25?"; calls it studio of Campin and notes that its pictorial matter is analogous with that of the master, but it lacks the vivacity of his handling.
Maryan W. Ainsworth. "'The Virgin and Child in an Apse': Reconsidering a Campin Workshop Design." Robert Campin: New Directions in Scholarship. Ed. Susan Foister and Susie Nash. [Turnhout, Belgium], 1996, pp. 149–58, ill. (details, infrared reflectogram assembly, and x-radiograph), colorpl. 52, observes that although the panel has been transferred to a linen support and cannot, therefore, be dated dendrochronologically, none of the other extant versions can be dated much before the mid-fifteenth century; notes that similarities among these in technique and execution suggest that they were mass produced during the last quarter of the fifteenth century and that indulgences may have been attached to the image; compares infrared-reflectography and x-radiography of the MMA picture with that of the panel in the Diamond Collection and concludes that the MMA picture is the earlier work, its technique typical of the first half of the fifteenth century
Catherine Reynolds inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 20, New York, 1996, p. 669, in regard to the numerous versions of the composition, finds that "the awkwardness of the apse . . . as well as the more obtrusively contrived elegance of the Virgin's support of the veil suggest that, if the design did originate with the Master of Flémalle, it would considerably antedate the Flémalle altarpiece [Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt]".
Maryan W. Ainsworth. "A Meeting of Sacred and Secular Worlds." 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. 65, 74, 81, 95, 211, 220–22, 252, no. 47, ill. (color), dates it about 1500 and calls it one of the earliest of the many versions of this composition.
Maryan W. Ainsworth. Gerard David: Purity of Vision in an Age of Transition. New York, 1998, p. 265, fig. 249.
Hélène Mund inDirk Bouts (ca. 1410–1475): Een Vlaams primitief te Leuven. Ed. Maurits Smeyers. Exh. cat., Sint-Pieterskerk en Predikherenkerk, Leuven. Louvain, 1998, p. 236.
Lorne Campbell. National Gallery Catalogues: The Fifteenth Century Netherlandish Schools. London, 1998, p. 102, notes that this picture and the version in the Diamond Collection, New York, are generally considered the most faithful to Campin's original.
Zsuzsa Urbach. "From Connoisseurship to Art History: Case Study of an Early Netherlandish Painting in Esztergom." Acta historiae artium [Art-historical journal of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences] 42 (2001), pp. 27–28, ill.
Felix Thürlemann. Robert Campin: A Monographic Study with Critical Catalogue. Munich, 2002, pp. 190, 313–14, no. III.E.2/C, ill., attributes the original, which he dates about 1420, to a "student of Robert Campin," the Master of the Madonna before a Grassy Bench (Jan van Stoevere?), and links it with the painting of this subject in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin; finds the facial type and hands of the Virgin, as well as the "long and slightly curved parallel lines of the folds in the drapery" not typical of Campin's work; considers our picture the only example of the composition that might possibly be the original.
Till-Holger Borchert. "Collecting Early Netherlandish Paintings in Europe and the United States." Early Netherlandish Paintings: Rediscovery, Reception and Research. Ed. Bernhard Ridderbos et al. English ed. Amsterdam, 2005, p. 207 [Dutch ed., "'Om iets te weten van de oude meesters'. De Vlaamse Primitieven—herontdekking, waardering en onderzoek," Nijmegen, 1995].
Important Old Master Paintings. Sotheby's, New York. January 25, 2007, p. 64.
Stephan Kemperdick inThe Master of Flémalle and Rogier van der Weyden. Ed. Stephan Kemperdick and Jochen Sander. Exh. cat., Städel Museum, Frankfurt. Ostfildern, 2009, pp. 186–87, fig. 111 (color) [German ed., "Der Meister von Flémalle und Rogier van der Weyden," Ostfildern, 2008], comments on the remarkably similar physiognomies of the Virgin here and in the "Madonna before a Grassy Bench" (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin), and on the chubby, round-headed type of Christ Child present in both works; notes that the underdrawing of the Berlin panel shows the Child's head and left arm in a position almost identical to that in our picture; concludes that "the original of this work [the MMA painting] must have belonged to the same context" as the Berlin picture.
Diane Wolfthal and Cathy Metzger. Los Angeles Museums. Brussels, 2014, pp. 224, 237 n. 12.
Old Master & British Paintings. Christie's, London. December 8, 2015, p. 44, under no. 10.
Rafael Cornudella. "From Patinir's Workshop to the Monastery of Pedralbes: A Virgin and Child in a Landscape." Locus Amœnus 16 (2018), p. 26, fig. 4 (color).
Larry Silver. "Eyckian Icons and Copies." Making Copies in European Art 1400–1600: Shifting Tastes, Modes of Transmission, and Changing Contexts. Ed. Maddalena Bellavitis. Leiden, 2018, p. 143, fig. 3.8 (color).
Caroline Elam. Roger Fry and Italian Art. London, 2019, pp. 44, 66 n. 72, p. 106.
Karel Moens. E-mail to Maryan W. Ainsworth. May 4, 2022, discusses the music-making angels.
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