Art/ Collection/ Art Object

A Benedictine Monk

Hugo van der Goes (Netherlandish, Ghent, active by 1467–died 1482 Rood-Klooster)
ca. 1478
Oil on wood
Overall 9 7/8 x 7 3/8 in. (25.1 x 18.7 cm), with added strip of 3/4 in. (1.9 cm) at right
Credit Line:
The Bequest of Michael Dreicer, 1921
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 644
This man’s robe and tonsured hair indicate that he is a Benedictine, but whether this is a portrait of a contemporary monk or an image of a saint is not clear. The panel was cut from a larger image, and unlike some of the donor portraits on display, this sitter gazes downward, creating a more contemplative mood. His attenuated head, the sensitive modeling of his features, and the meditative expression are characteristic of Hugo van der Goes’s late work.
Farr (until 1813; his sale, Christie's, London, February 26, 1813, no. 55, as by Jan van Eyck); Bulver, London, 1914; John Linnell, London (until 1918; his sale, Christie's, London, March 15, 1918, no. 146, as "Portrait of a Monk," by Roger van der Weyden, for £19.95.0 to Leggatt); [Leggatt, London, from 1918]; Michael Dreicer, New York (until d. 1921)
Exposition universelle et internationale de Bruxelles. "Cinq siècles d'art," May 24–October 13, 1935, no. 34 (as "Portrait of a Monk," by Hugo van der Goes).

Paris. Musée de l'Orangerie. "De van Eyck à Bruegel," November–December 1935, no. 46.

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. 31.

Max J. Friedländer. Von Eyck bis Bruegel: Studien zur Geschichte der Niederländischen Malerei. Berlin, 1916, p. 175, lists this picture in an index of works by Rogier van der Weyden, as with Bulver, London.

Martin Conway. The Van Eycks and Their Followers. London, 1921, p. 148, describes a portrait at that time in the Dreicer collection, depicting "a middle–aged courtier of very refined expression, with hair cut low above the eyebrows and hands joined in an attitude of prayer" [unlikely to be the present work].

Max J. Friedländer. "Mr. Dreicer's Portrait by Rogier van der Weyden." Art in America 9 (1921), pp. 188–89, ill., notes that Dreicer recently purchased the "portrait of a young man" [sic.] by Rogier van der Weyden that the author first saw with Bulver in London [see Ref. Friedänder 1916].

H. B. W[ehle]. "The Michael Dreicer Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 17 (May 1922), p. 100, ill. p. 102, calls it a portrait of a Benedictine monk by Rogier van der Weyden.

Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 4, Hugo van der Goes. Berlin, 1926, pp. 48, 126–27, 164, no. 13, pl. 20, calls it "portrait of an 'older' man [but see Ref. Friedländer 1921]; attributes it to Hugo van der Goes later in his career; considers it a fragment from a devotional work.

Franz Dülberg. Niederländische Malerei der Spätgotik und Renaissance. Potsdam, 1929, p. 89, as a work in the spirit of Hugo's later years in the cloister [Roode Klooster], probably a fragment of a larger work.

Robert Rey Éditions de l'Abeille. Hugo van der Goes. Fontainebleau, 1936, p. 43. pl. 16, attributes it to the painter, suggesting that it represents one of the canons of the monastery of the Roode Klooster.

Karl Oettinger. "Das Rätsel der Kunst des Hugo van der Goes." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, n.s., 12 (1938), pp. 55–57, ill., as by Hugo, well after 1478.

J. B. Knipping in Een reeks monografieën over hollandse en vlaamse schilders. Vol. 1, part 1, Vijftiende en zestiende eeuw: Van Eyck, Van der Weyden, Van der Goes, Bosch, Van Leyden, Van Scorel. Amsterdam, [1939], p. 43, ill. p. 40, compares the head with that of Joseph of Arimathea in Hugo's "Death of the Virgin" (Groeninge Museum, Bruges).

Erwin Panofsky. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. April 2, 1940, as by a follower of Rogier van der Weyden; compares it to a Portrait of a Lady in the National Gallery, London, which he also attributes to a Rogier follower.

Hulin de Loo. Pedro Berruguete et les portraits d'Urbin. [Brussels], 1942, p. 16, compares this head to that of Saint Stephen in the Liechtenstein Triptych [The Adoration of the Magi, Vaduz], which he attributes to Hugo, but also sees a connection with works by Joos van Wassenhove [Justus of Ghent].

Charles de Tolnay. "Hugo van der Goes as Portrait Painter." Art Quarterly 7 (Summer 1944), pp. 181, 189 n. 2, doubts Friedländer's (Ref. 1926) attribution of this portrait to Hugo observing that it is "difficult, in its present condition to determine its place in the development of the Master"; considers it a work of high quality, produced under the influence of Rogier.

Robert Rey. Hugo van der Goes. Brussels, 1945, pl. 37 and facing page, ill., dates it to Hugo's last years at the Roode Klooster, given the ascetic character and the treatment of volumes in the portrait.

Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 58–59, ill., attribute it to Hugo; consider it a late work, due to to the painting's "delicate and evolved" quality.

Leo van Puyvelde. The Flemish Primitives. Brussels, 1948, p. 29, pl. 75, as "Portrait of a Man" by Hugo.

Erwin Panofsky. Early Netherlandish Painting: Its Origins and Character. Cambridge, Mass., 1953, vol. 1, p. 499 n. 1 (to p. 332), ascribes it to a follower of Rogier van der Weyden.

Julius S. Held. "Erwin Panofsky, 'Early Netherlandish Painting, Its Origin[s] and Character'." Art Bulletin. Vol. 37, September 1955, p. 206, shares Panofsky's doubts regarding the attribution of this portrait to Hugo.

Valentin Denis. Hugo van der Goes. [Brussels], [1956], p. 30.

Erik Larsen. Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York. Utrecht, 1960, pp. 68, 118, fig. 17, as by Hugo.

Colin Eisler. "Erik Larsen, Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York, 1960." Art Bulletin 46 (March 1964), pp. 102–3, finds it hard to attribute it to Hugo or to a follower "aping the profundity of the master," as it is obscured by discolored varnish.

Friedrich Winkler. Das Werk des Hugo van der Goes. Berlin, 1964, pp. 87, 264, fig. 67, as a late work of Hugo; wonders if the head of Saint Stephen on the right wing of the Liechtenstein triptych [Vaduz] minght be a copy after our panel; suggests the monk was a member of the Roode Klooster.

Max J. Friedländer et al. Early Netherlandish Painting. Vol. 4, Hugo van der Goes. New York, 1969, pp. 30, 70, 104 n. 57, no. 13, pl. 24.

Robert A. Koch Bernard Berenson in Letter. February 23, 1971, doesn't feel that the portrait is nearly intense enough for Hugo, especially when compared to the Portrait of a Young Man (MMA 29.100.15).

A. de Bosque. "El retablo flamenco de la iglesia del Salvador de Valladolid." Archivo español de arte 46 (October–December 1973), p. 10, fig. 13, attributes it to Hugo; compares the features of the sitter in our portrait with those of the king holding Christ's hand in the Adoration of the Magi (Church of San Salvador, Valladolid) by an Antwerp master.

A. de Bosque. Quentin Metsys. Brussels, 1975, p. 136, fig. 131.

V. Denis. La peinture flamande 15e–16e–17e siècles. Brussels, 1976, p. 106, as by Hugo after 1475.

Lorne Campbell. Letter to Mary Sprinson. February 13, 1979, calls it "very close in style to the generally acknowledged works of Hugo"; does not consider this to be a portrait, but rather "a fragment cut from a religious painting, or conceivably an imaginary 'portrait' of some saintly personage"; observes that the head of the eldest king in the Monforte altarpiece (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin) is very similar.

Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann. Memo to Mary Sprinson. February 14, 1979, considers it in "style of Hugo van der Goes," and contemporary with him, but notes "a certain infuence from Rogier in the eyes, particularly the upper eyelids".

Colin Thompson. Letter to Mary Sprinson. March 16, 1979, considers it close to Hugo's work and possibly by him; dates it late, about the same time as his Berlin Nativity [Gemäldegalerie]; notes that it is "hardly a portrait as it stands"; agrees with Campbell's view [see Ref. 1979] that it might be an idealized portrait, though, in theory, it could also come from a composition with more than one figure.

Lorne Campbell. Unpublished text for MMA Bulletin. 1981, considers it "more probably by a highly gifted artist in Van der Goes's immediate circle" than by the master himself; comments on the uncertain status of the representaion — whether it is a likeness taken from a living person, or an idealized image of a saint or some other notable of the church.

B. de Patoul et al. Hugo van der Goes (1430/40–1482): L'homme et son oeuvre. Brussels, 1982, p. 24, no. 21, ill.

Guy Bauman. "Early Flemish Portraits, 1425–1525." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 43 (Spring 1986), pp. 11–12, ill. (color), agrees with Campbell [Ref. 1979] that it is not a true portrait, but "more likely a fragmentary representation of a Benedictine saint", perhaps Benedict himself.

Eric A. Gordon. "The Conservation of Hugo van der Goes's Portrait of a Donor with St. John the Baptist in The Walters Art Gallery." Journal of the Walters Art Gallery 46 (1988), p. 97 n. 11.

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, p. 336, no. 247, ill.

Paul Eeckhout in Les primitifs flamands et leur temps. Ed. Brigitte de Patoul and Roger van Schoute. Louvain-la-Neuve, 1994, pp. 432, 435, ill. (color).

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. 107–9, 139, 170, no. 8, ill. (color), as by Hugo van der Goes, from the late 1470s; suggests that it may have be excised from an altarpiece; finds the head close to those of his saints and magi, in particular St. Stephen in the Prince of Liechtenstein's triptych (Vaduz), which she accepts as autograph; notes that our monk contrasts with the sitters in Hugo's donor portraits, "whose alert, directed gazes connect them with the objects of their devotion"; believes this panel may exemplify the Netherlandish tradition of the holy figure represented as a living portrait .

Maryan W. Ainsworth. "Hugo van der Goes and Portraiture." The Primacy of the Image in Northern European Art, 1400–1700: Essays in Honor of Larry Silver. Leiden, 2017, p. 28.

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