Saint John the Baptist; Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata

Gerard David (Netherlandish, Oudewater ca. 1455–1523 Bruges)
ca. 1485–90
Oil on wood
Left wing, overall 18 x 6 5/8 in. (45.7 x 16.8 cm), original painted surface 17 5/8 x 5 7/8 in. (44.8 x 14.9 cm); right wing, overall 17 7/8 x 6 1/2 in. (45.4 x 16.5 cm), original painted surface 17 5/8 x 5 3/4 in. (44.8 x 14.6 cm)
Credit Line:
The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 640
While John the Baptist was frequently represented in Netherlandish art, his pairing with Saint Francis is rare in the North. The latter was venerated especially in southern Europe, suggesting that these paintings could have been commissioned by an Italian merchant working in Bruges. Originally the wings of a triptych, they might have flanked a Crucifixion or a Lamentation, for they both share the theme of Christ’s sacrifice: Saint John points to the Lamb of God, a familiar metaphor for Christ as the redeemer of mankind, and Saint Francis miraculously receives the stigmata at a distance from his monastery on Mount Alverna.
private collection, Genoa; Richard von Kaufmann, Berlin (1898–d. 1908; his estate, 1908–17; his estate sale, Cassirer & Helbing, Berlin, December 4, 1917, nos. 76 and 77, for Mk. 105,000); Omnes van Nijenrode, Breukelen (1917–23; sale, Muller, Amsterdam, July 10, 1923, no. 7, for fl. 29,000); [Paul Bottenwieser, Berlin, 1923; sold to Kleinberger]; [Kleinberger, New York, 1923; sold to Friedsam]; Michael Friedsam, New York (1923–d. 1931)
Berlin. Kunstgeschichtliche Gesellschaft. "Ausstellung von Kunstwerken des Mittelalters und der Renaissance aus Berliner Privatbesitz," May 20–June 25, 1898, no. 55 (lent by R. v. Kaufmann).

Bruges. Palais du Gouvernement. "Exposition des primitifs flamands et d'art ancien," June 15–September 15, 1902, no. 134 (lent by M. von Kaufmann, Berlin).

Berlin. Akademie der Künste. "Ausstellung von Werken alter Kunst," 1914, nos. 34 and 35 (lent by Frau von Kaufmann).

New York. F. Kleinberger Galleries. "Flemish Primitives," 1929, no. 28 (as a triptych, lent by Col. Michael Friedsam).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Michael Friedsam Collection," November 15, 1932–April 9, 1933, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Painter's Light," October 5–November 10, 1971, no. 2.

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. 73.

Madrid. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. "Gerard David y el paisaje flamenco," June 10–August 22, 2004, nos. 4 and 5.

Max J. Friedländer in Ausstellung von Kunstwerken des Mittelalters und der Renaissance aus Berliner Privatbesitz Veranstaltet von der Kunstgeschichtlichen Gesellschaft . . . 1898. Berlin, 1899, pp. 12–13, ill. (Saint Francis), describes the two altarwings as early works of Gerard David, comparing them with the triptych in the Louvre [Altarpiece of the Virgin Enthroned] and the Nativity in the Kaufmann collection.

Henri Hymans. "L'exposition des primitifs flamands à Bruges (1er article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 28 (August 1902), p. 66, ill. p. 64 (Saint Francis), as works of David's youth.

Georges H. de Loo Palais du Gouvernement, Bruges. Exposition de tableaux flamands des XIVe, XVe et XVIe siècles: catalogue critique précédé d'une introduction sur l'identité de certains maîtres anonymes. Ghent, 1902, p. 35, nos. 134 and 134 bis, considers them works of David's youth.

Max J. Friedländer. "Die Brügger Leihausstellung von 1902." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 26 (1903), p. 87, dates them in the 1590s.

Eberhard von Bodenhausen. Gerard David und seine Schule. Munich, 1905, pp. 13, 27, 29–30, 46, 96–98, no. 5, ill. opp. p. 96, implies that these panels were painted before David's arrival in Bruges in 1483, and notes that Master W with the Key uses a type very similar to our Saint Francis in his engraving of the Saint [see Notes].

Max J. Friedländer. "De Verzameling von Kaufmann te Berlijn." Onze Kunst 10 (July–December 1906), p. 33.

Salomon Reinach. Répertoire de peintures du moyen age et de la renaissance (1280–1580). Vol. 3, Paris, 1910, ill. p. 597 (engraving).

L. de Fourcaud. "La fin de l'art primitif à Bruges: Gérard David." Revue de l'art ancien et moderne 30 (July–December 1911), p. 348.

Friedrich Winkler in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Ulrich Thieme. Vol. 8, Leipzig, 1913, p. 452, mentions the wing panels as early works.

Max J. Friedländer. Von Eyck bis Bruegel: Studien zur Geschichte der Niederländischen Malerei. Berlin, 1916, p. 180.

Max J. Friedländer. Die Sammlung Richard von Kaufmann, Berlin. Cassirer and Helbing, Berlin. December 4ff., 1917, vol. 2, p. 152, nos. 76, 77, ill., calls them early works by David, noting their stylistic closeness to Jan van Eyck and Geertgen tot Sint Jans.

H. Friedeberger. "Die Sammlung Richard von Kaufmann." Der Cicerone 9 (1917), p. 375, pl. 1, as early works by David.

Martin Conway. The Van Eycks and Their Followers. London, 1921, p. 279, considers them early works and, as evidence that David was beginning to study the van Eycks, observes that "the wooded background behind John the Baptist is imitated from a wing of the Adoration of the Lamb".

M. D. Henkel. "Versteigerung der Sammlung Schloß Nyenrode." Kunstchronik und Kunstmarkt no. 37/38 (June 15–22, 1923), p. 687.

Paul Bottenwieser. Paintings by Old Masters Placed in Museums of Art and Private Collections. [Berlin?], n.d., unpaginated, ill.

Primitifs néerlandais et maîtres des XVIe et XVIIe siècles: Collection du château de Nijenrode. Frederik Muller, Amsterdam. July 10, 1923, pp. ix–x, 4, no. 7, pl. VII, dates them about 1485.

Friedrich Winkler. Die altniederländische Malerei: Die Malerei in Belgien und Holland von 1400–1600. Berlin, 1924, p. 136, fig. 81 (Saint John the Baptist), as painted in Bruges at the same time as the Kaufmann and Budapest Nativities.

Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 6, Memling und Gerard David. Berlin, 1928, pp. 84, 88–89, 91, 100, 143, no. 159, pl. 67, publishes the Nativity [32.100.40a] with the wing panels of Saint John the Baptist and Saint Francis as a triptych and places it later in David's oeuvre than the Budapest and von Pannwitz [Kaufmann] Nativities.

Max J. Friedländer in The Michael Friedsam Collection. [completed 1928], p. 138.

Franz Dülberg. Niederländische Malerei der Spätgotik und Renaissance. Potsdam, 1929, p. 130, cites the wings as the earliest appearance of David's characteristic landscape style.

[Hippolyte] Fierens-Gevaert and Paul Fierens. Histoire de la peinture flamande des origines à la fin du XVe siècle. Vol. 3, La maturité de l'art flamand. Paris, 1929, p. 80, mentions the wings as works from David's Haarlem period, erroneously locating them in the Simon collection, Berlin.

Sidney P. Noe. "Flemish Primitives in New York." American Magazine of Art 21 (January 1930), pp. 32, 37.

Bryson Burroughs and Harry B. Wehle. "The Michael Friedsam Collection: Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27, section 2 (November 1932), pp. 22–24, no. 31, fig. 31 (Saint Francis), note that it is not definitely known that the three panels belonged together, but that they seem to "constitute a unified triptych"; add that the relative dimensions of the panels would tend to support Friedländer's reconstruction, noting that although the wings are 3/4 inch shorter than the central panel, they appear to have been cut down; date them not long after 1483.

Ludwig Baldass. "Gerard David als Landschaftsmaler." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, n.s., 10 (1936), pp. 91–93, notes the influence of Geertgen, adding that one does not yet see signs of the influence of the great Flemish painters, and concludes that the triptych must be an early work painted under a hypothetical apprenticeship with Geertgen in Haarlem.

Wolfgang Schöne. "Über einige altniederländische Bilder, vor allem in Spanien." Jahrbuch der königlich preuszischen Kunstsammlungen 58 (1937), p. 173, publishes miniatures from a book of hours from 1486 in the Escorial, the larger part of which he ascribes to David; on the basis of style, places our three panels in the same period.

K. G. Boon. Gerard David. Amsterdam, [1946], pp. 20–22, ill. p. 17, believes the altarpiece was painted during a "transitional period" in Bruges and considers it later than the von Pannwitz and Budapest Nativities which he places among David's earliest works; sees the discrepancies between the wings and central panel as characteristic of his work at this time.

Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 89–92, ill., observe that although the panels are now framed as a triptych, they evidently did not belong together originally; note that the landscape is discontinuous and that the sizes of the three panels are different, the wings being shorter than the central panel and too wide to close when framed and hinged; see the Nativity as characteristic of David's Haarlem style and the wings as being in the style he developed safter he came to Bruges.

Ernest Lotthé. La pensée chrétienne dans la peinture flamande et hollandaise. Lille, 1947, vol. 1, p. 59; vol. 2, p. 323 n. 77.

M. L. D'Otrange. "Gerard David at the Metropolitan, New York." Connoisseur 128 (January 1952), pp. 206–7, ill.

Georges Marlier. Ambrosius Benson et la peinture à Bruges au temps de Charles-Quint. Damme, Belgium, 1957, p. 142, notes that the Saint Francis on the right wing of Benson's triptych with the Lamentation (collection D. Indalecio Cano y de Luis, Fuentesauco) is taken from the figure of this saint in our wing panel.

Erik Larsen. Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York. Utrecht, 1960, pp. 79, 123, fig. 23, notes that the panels were not conceived as a triptych, but believes they were produced during the same period of the artist's career, about 1475.

Albert Châtelet. "Albert van Ouwater." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 55 (February 1960), p. 71, publishes a panel depicting Saint John the Baptist (Capilla Real, Granada) which he ascribes to Albert van Ouwater and observes that it seems to have been the source for our wing panel with the same saint.

Roger van Schoute. La Chapelle Royale de Grenade: Les primitifs flamands, I: Corpus de la peinture des anciens pays-bas méridionaux au quinzième siècle, vol. 6. Brussels, 1963, pp. 18–19, finds the connection between our Saint John the Baptist and the panel of this saint in Granada to be mostly iconographic, and doubts Châtelet's attribution of the latter [see Ref. 1960] to Ouwater.

Max J. Friedländer et al. Early Netherlandish Painting. Vol. 6, Hans Memlinc and Gerard David. New York, 1971, part 2, pp. 83, 85–87, 100, no. 159, p. 127, pls. 161–62.

Elizabeth Ourusoff De Fernandez-Gimenez in "European Paintings Before 1500." The Cleveland Museum of Art: Catalogue of Paintings. Part 1, Cleveland, 1974, p. 151.

Diane Graybowski Scillia. "Gerard David and Manuscript Illumination in the Low Countries, 1480–1509." PhD diss., Case Western Reserve University, 1975, pp. 80–81, 100 nn. 8 and 12, pp. 113, 127, 129–33, 144 n. 13, pp. 152–53 nn. 73–74, 78, pp. 161–62, 164–65, 174, 191–93, 200 n. 14, p. 201 n. 16, p. 205 n. 53, p. 242 n. 9, p. 243 n. 14, fig. 24, dates the central panel in David's Haarlem period and the wings after 1484, observing that they were not originally designed to adjoin this Nativity.

John D. Morse. Old Master Paintings in North America: Over 3000 Masterpieces by 50 Great Artists. New York, 1979, p. 92.

Edwin James Mundy III. "Gerard David Studies." PhD diss., Princeton University, 1980, pp. 24–25, 51 nn. 38–39, apparently views the three panels as conceived as a whole; dates the triptych well into the 1490s, but before 1497, the approximate date of the similar Nativity in the Breviary of Isabella of Spain.

James Snyder. Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, the Graphic Arts from 1350 to 1575. New York, 1985, pp. 188, 191, fig. 182, observes that there is some question as to whether or not the three panels originally belonged together; dates them about 1480–85.

Dirk De Vos in Nationaal Biografisch Woordenboek. Vol. 12, Brussels, 1987, col. 215.

Catheline Périer-d'Ieteren. "Précisions sur le dessin sous-jacent et la technique d'exécution de la Nativité de Gérard David du musée de Budapest." Annales d'histoire d'art et d'archéologie 60 (1987), pp. 95–106.

Hans J. van Miegroet. Gerard David. Antwerp, 1989, pp. 36, 38, 48, 80, 273, 276, 278, 280, 320, 328, no. 1, colorpl. 11 (triptych), ill. p. 273, considers the wings later than the central panel, and not from the same ensemble; observes that the three panels probably belong to David's earliest production, possibly between 1480 and 1485.

Maryan W. Ainsworth. "Gerard David, Hans J. van Miegroet." Art Bulletin 72 (December 1990), p. 649, notes that Van Miegroet discusses the wing panels and Nativity together although he concedes that they were not originally conceived as a unit; states that the physical and stylistic evidence that the Nativity is earlier than the wings is "readily apparent," observing that the central panel depends on North Netherlandish prototypes and the wings on later influence from Bruges and Ghent.

Susanne Urbach in Eva Szmodis-Eszláry and Susanne Urbach. Middeleeuwse Nederlandse Kunst uit Hongarije. Ed. Onno Helleman. Exh. cat., Museum Catharijneconvent. Utrecht, 1990, p. 28, mentions our wing panel with Saint John the Baptist in relation to a similar panel ascribed to Isenbrant (cat. no. 9, ill.; Szépmuvészeti Múzeum, Budapest).

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. 69, 277–78, 282, 284–85, no. 73, ill. (color), notes that prior to 1905 the panels were cut down at their lower edges and overpainted at their tops and sides to alter their dimensions; dates them about 1485–90 and the Nativity (MMA 32.100.40a) in the early 1480s.

Maryan W. Ainsworth. Gerard David: Purity of Vision in an Age of Transition. New York, 1998, pp. 102, 117–22, 150–51 nn. 20, 50, 51, pp. 216–17, 319, 324, ill., (overall and detail in color, IRR, x-radiograph details), sees in both panels the influence of Jan van Eyck; gives earliest felling date for panel of 1427.

Michael Rohlmann. "Flanders and Italy, Flanders and Florence. Early Netherlandish Painting in Italy and its Particular Influence on Florentine Art: An Overview." Italy and the Low Countries—Artistic Relations: The Fifteenth Century. Florence, 1999, p. 57 n. 2, refers to the three Friedsam panels as a Nativity triptych and includes them in a list of Flemish works that came from Italy, "of which the precise origins are unknown".

Joaquín Yarza Luaces in Gerard David y el paisaje flamenco. Exh. cat., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, 2003, pp. 40, 44, 46–47, 126, nos. 4–5, figs. 17–18 (color).

Susan Urbach. Early Netherlandish Paintings. London, 2015, vol. 1, p. 231 (Saint John), under no. 19a.

Old Masters. Christie's, New York. April 27, 2017, unpaginated, under no. 16.

When these panels were bequeathed to the Museum by Michael Friedsam in 1932, they served as the wings for a Nativity (32.100.40a). There is no record of the three panels forming an ensemble until 1923 when Friedsam purchased them as a triptych from Kleinberger. The Nativity was exhibited as an independent work in Paris in 1874 and the wings were together since at least the late nineteenth century. Wehle and Salinger (1947) and most contemporary scholars, including Ainsworth (1998) doubt or reject the reconstruction of the panels as a triptych. They were, however, exhibited as such by the Metropoltian Museum until 1998, when the wings were separated from the Nativity on the occasion of the "Van Eyck to Bruegel" exhibition. Ainsworth believes the Nativity was most likely conceived as a single private devotional panel, dating it to the early 1480s, before David's relocation to Bruges; she dates the wings to his first years in that city, or about 1485–90. As both wing panels share the theme of Christ's sacrifice and the Crucifixion, she suggests a Crucifixion or Lamentation as the most likely subject for the lost central panel.

All four sides of the central panel have their original bearded edges. On the right wing, the original edge is visible beneath overpaint; the bottom edge has been cut and additions of +/– 3/8 in. have been made to the right and left sides of the panel. No original edge is visible at the top of the left wing. This area, however, is very damaged and evidence of an original edge may have been destroyed. The panel was also cut at the bottom and has the same additions to the sides as the right wing.

An engraving by Master W with the Key of the Stigmatization of Saint Francis (ill. in F. W. H. Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, XII [1949– ], p. 212) is similar in composition to our wing panel of this subject (see Bodenhausen 1905).