Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Christ Taking Leave of His Mother

Gerard David (Netherlandish, Oudewater ca. 1455–1523 Bruges)
ca. 1500
Oil on wood
Arched top, 6 1/8 x 4 3/4 in. (15.6 x 12.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 640
David also worked as a manuscript illuminator, a skill reflected in this picture’s delicacy of execution. The panel—now in a modern frame—originally formed the right wing of a devotional diptych that would close like a book and thus could easily be used by a traveler during a journey. While its pendant (Bearsted collection, Upton House, Warwickshire) emphasized the loving relationship between the Virgin and Child, this painting depicts the drama of Christ’s departure for Jerusalem and his ultimate sacrifice. Mary, accompanied by the weeping Mary Magdalen and Martha, serves as a model of compassion for the viewer.
[Drey or Böhler, Munich; bought in Spain]; Otto H. Kahn, New York (in 1911); [Duveen, London and New York, until 1912; sold to Altman]; Benjamin Altman, New York (1912–d. 1913)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Gerard David: Flanders's Last Medieval Master," April 1–May 9, 1972, no catalogue?

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. 76.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261–1557)," March 23–July 4, 2004, no. 344.


Eberhard von Bodenhausen and Wilhelm R. Valentiner. "Zum Werk Gerard Davids." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 22 (1911), p. 188, ill., publishes it as a late work of Gerard David in the collection of Otto Kahn, New York.

Max J. Friedländer. Letter to Mr. Kleinberger. August 15, 1912, states that he recommended this picture (then in the Altman collection) to Otto Kahn; ascribes it to David and considers it the pendant to a Madonna in the Kahn collection (now Bearsted Collection, Upton House, Banbury); notes that both panels came from Spain where Drey found one and Böhler the other .

Friedrich Winkler in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Ulrich Thieme. Vol. 8, Leipzig, 1913, p. 454, lists it.

Martin Conway. "Gerard David's 'Descent from the Cross'." Burlington Magazine 29 (November 1916), p. 309, mentions this panel as a late work, of about the same date as "The Crucifixion" now in the Berlin-Dahlem Museum, and notes that the heads in both paintings are related.

Martin Conway. The Van Eycks and Their Followers. London, 1921, p. 288, calls it a late work, close in style to a "Descent from the Cross" now in the Frick Collection, New York.

François Monod. "La galerie Altman au Metropolitan Museum de New-York (1er article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 5th ser., 8 (September–October 1923), p. 194.

Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 6, Memling und Gerard David. Berlin, 1928, p. 146, no. 170, pl. 78.

Handbook of the Benjamin Altman Collection. 2nd ed. New York, 1928, p. 56.

K. G. Boon. Gerard David. Amsterdam, [1946], p. 49, ill. p. 52, mentions it as part of a diptych with the Bearsted "Virgin and Child".

Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 92–93, ill., observe that although this panel and the one in the Bearsted collection both came out of Spain, and were both in the Kahn collection for a few years, they probably did not belong together, as the scale of figures in our panel is larger.

Gerard David. Exh. cat., Groening Museum, Bruges. Brussels, 1949, p. 16, states, in relation to Munich diptych, "David seems to have had a predilection for small diptychs of this type, several of which have been preserved (Metropolitan Museum, New York; Van Gelder Collection, Brussels)".

M. L. D'Otrange. "Gerard David at the Metropolitan, New York." Connoisseur 128 (January 1952), p. 211, ill. p. 207, doubts that it formed a diptych with the Bearsted "Virgin and Child".

L'Art flamand dans les collections britanniques et la Galerie Nationale de Victoria. Exh. cat., Musée Communal Groeninge, Bruges. Brussels, 1956, p. 31, mentions our panel as part of a diptych with the picture at Upton House.

Georges Marlier. Ambrosius Benson et la peinture à Bruges au temps de Charles-Quint. Damme, Belgium, 1957, pp. 47–48, mentions this painting with the one in the Bearsted collection and suggests the possible intervention of Isenbrant in the execution of the group of small devotional panels usually ascribed to David.

Erik Larsen. Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York. Utrecht, 1960, p. 81, considers the attribution to David suppositional.

St. John Gore. Upton House, The Bearsted Collection: Pictures. n.p., 1964, pp. 46–47, states that in David's "Madonna and Child" at Upton House, "the picture surface and frame are formed of one piece of wood".

Max J. Friedländer et al. Early Netherlandish Painting. Vol. 6, Hans Memlinc and Gerard David. New York, 1971, part 2, p. 102, no. 170, pl. 185, describes it as the right wing of a diptych and identifies the left wing, a Virgin and Child with two Angels [now Banbury, Bearsted Collection, National Trust].

Diane Graybowski Scillia. "Gerard David and Manuscript Illumination in the Low Countries, 1480–1509." PhD diss., Case Western Reserve University, 1975, pp. 185, 210 n. 80, places David's devotional diptychs, including this panel and the "Madonna and Child" at Upton House, about the same time as the De Sedanno triptych in the Louvre, which she dates before 1498 .

Edwin James Mundy III. "Gerard David Studies." PhD diss., Princeton University, 1980, p. 34, erroneously implies that both panels of the diptych are in Banbury.

Sixten Ringbom. Icon to Narrative: The Rise of the Dramatic Close-up in Fifteenth-century Devotional Painting. rev. ed. Doornspijk, The Netherlands, 1984, pp. 174–75 n. 13 [first published in Acta Academiae Aboensis, ser. A, Humaniora, 1965, vol. 31, no. 2, same page nos.], sees in this picture a later development of the composition in the Van Gelder collection, Uccle (now Öffentliche Kunstsammlungen, Basel), as the two Maries have been added and the movements are more vivid.

Christiaan Vogelaar. Netherlandish 15th and 16th-Century Paintings in the National Gallery of Ireland: A Complete Catalogue. Dublin, 1987, pp. 22–23.

Hans J. van Miegroet. Gerard David. Antwerp, 1989, pp. 125, 130, 141 n. 91, pp. 282–84, 288, no. 11b, ill. p. 283 and colorpl. 86, believes the group of three small devotional diptychs (nos. 11, 11a, 11b) dates from 1490–95, and that our painting and its Banbury pendant may be latest, as their compositions are more accomplished and show "enhanced dramatic effect".

Introduction by Walter A. Liedtke in Flemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp, 1992, pp. 24, 326, no. 174, ill.

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. 289–90, 322, no. 76, ill. (color), dates it about 1500, noting that the types of the Virgin, Magdalen, and Christ appear on a grander scale in David's Deposition (Frick Collection, New York) Transformation and Baptism of Christ (Groeninge Museum, Bruges), all from this period .

Maryan W. Ainsworth. Gerard David: Purity of Vision in an Age of Transition. New York, 1998, pp. 272, 275–76, 310 n. 63, p. 320, ill. (overall in color and IRR detail), notes that in this panel the addition of the Magdalen and Martha to the figures of Christ and the Virgin—who appear alone in David's small diptychs in Munich and Basel—required a reworking of the design directly on the panel in a black chalk sketch, visible through infrared-reflectography.

Kunstmuseum Basel. Die Sammlung Max Geldner im Kunstmuseum Basel: Vermächtnis und Ankäufe der Stiftung. Basel, 2000, p. 34.

Maryan W. Ainsworth in Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261–1557). Ed. Helen C. Evans. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2004, pp. 576–78, no. 344, ill. (color).

John Oliver Hand et al. Prayers and Portraits: Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2006, pp. 66, 312 n. 5, fig. 2B (color), calls it later than the small panel of this subject in the Kunstmuseum, Basel.

Nico van Hout et al. Anmut und Andacht: Das Diptychon im Zeitalter von Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling und Rogier van der Weyden. Exh. cat., Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp. Stuttgart, 2007, p. 90 [shorter European cat., which also appeared in French and Dutch, based on Washington cat., "Prayers and Portraits: Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych"].

Maryan W. Ainsworth in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2008–2010." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 68 (Fall 2010), p. 20.

Renaissance. Christie's, New York. January 29, 2014, pp. 160–61, under no. 158.

The original rounded top has been trimmed slightly at the right, left, and center. Beards are visible on all sides of the panel, including part of the top. The back of the panel has been painted to imitate porphyry.

This panel may have been the right wing of a diptych with a Madonna and Child in Upton House, National Trust (15.7 x 12 cm). Two diptychs by David in which similar subjects are combined have remained intact and are now in the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel, and the Alte Pinakothek, Munich. The imitation of porphyry on the reverse of our panel is evidence that it was part of a folding altarpiece in which the front and back of the panel were meant to be seen. Examination of the Upton House panel revealed that "the original paint-layer was [also] meant to look like porphyry" [see R. Woudhuysen-Keller, in The Hamilton Kerr Institute 1 (1988), p. 112, fig. 2 (the Upton House picture after restoration)].

Although St. John Gore (1964) states in his catalogue of the Bearsted Collection that the frame on the Bearsted Madonna and Child is formed from the same piece of wood as the picture surface, this frame appears from a photograph to be modern.

Jesse Dennis, 1981, confirms that the coat-of-arms on the frame pertains to a man descended from a marriage at some time in the past between a man of the Gevenich family, princes of Juliers (quarterly 1 and 4), and a lady of the De Looz family, princes of Liège (2 and 3). He himself was married to an heiress of the Henriquez de Luna family (central shield). The color code of the engraved lines used in these arms only came into general use at the end of the seventeenth century so the frame could not be contemporary with the picture. Mrs. Dennis thinks the frame is likely to be a later do-over of a sixteenth- or late fifteenth-century armorial, of an alliance that was actual then. The nature of the engraving looks nineteenth-century to her, but she believes it could be the perpetuation of an old and right armorial.
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