For a biography of Hans Memling, see (17.190.7
The Virgin and Child are set against a landscape background with rolling green hills, a small pond, two receding pathways and a dense grove of trees. The figures, framed by a rounded arch, are placed behind a parapet decorated with a colorful patterned carpet. The Christ Child, lovingly supported by his mother, holds a small unidentifiable blue flower in his left hand and gazes out of the picture plane, perhaps at the donor figure(s) who may have been represented in an adjacent panel, now lost.
The picture is a composite of motifs derived from works of the same subject by the Bruges-based painter Hans Memling and reflects the popularity of this theme in the Low Countries during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. A comparison of the Lehman Virgin and Child
to other similar examples emphasizes the frequency with which artists repeated models in a variety of media during this period and underscores contemporary devotional tendencies. The Lehman painting is close in composition to Memling’s Virgin and Child
in Lisbon (c. 1485-90, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga) [See Comparative Image, fig. 1], which may itself have formed part of a diptych or triptych that would have included portrait(s) of the donor(s). As noted by Till-Holger Borchert, the picture relates closely to an engraving by the Master FVB [See Comparative Image, fig. 2], a Netherlandish artist named from a group of works with monograms bearing the same initials. Although not identical in composition – the print excludes the landscape setting of the painting – the two images share the motif of the Virgin and Child.Attribution and Date:
The Virgin and Child
, attributed to Dieric Bouts around the turn of the twentieth century, was thereafter given to Hans Memling. In his monograph on Memling, De Vos proposes an attribution to his so-called Master of the Bache Virgin and relates the Lehman work to two other Virgin and Child
paintings at the Met, one from the Friedsam collection (32.100.58), and the other from the Bache collection (49.7.22). However, as differences in their materials and technique prove, these three paintings were not painted by the same hand. While each of the three pictures finds inspiration in the works of Memling, they represent artists working at different levels of remove from his workshop. It is possible to clarify the relationship between the Lehman painting and Memling’s studio by examining its composition and by analyzing its style and technique.
The Lehman painting features several compositional anomalies that mark it as the product of an artist somewhat distanced from Memling’s workshop. As noted by Martha Wolff, the painter missed an opportunity to establish a more direct connection between the viewer’s space and that of the holy pair by placing the Christ Child behind rather than resting on the carpeted parapet. Furthermore, the space in which the figures exist is ambiguous; the pair sits neither under nor in front of the stone arch. The end of the Virgin’s sheer headdress drapes across her chest, attempting a transparent visual effect achieved more convincingly in examples by the Bruges master. Instead of closely following a single model, the artist of the Lehman painting has recombined motifs from several different works by Memling, and, in doing so, struggled to compose a unified composition.
Much of the underdrawn design, executed in a medium with large, distinct particles, was mainly restricted to establishing contours. While Wolff suggests black chalk as the underdrawing medium, it may be that a liquid medium was used (See the Technical Notes for more information about the underdrawing). Very delicate parallel hatching was applied with a brush to suggest shadow in the Virgin’s proper left cheek and temple. In style, the underdrawing of the Lehman picture does not match the features characteristic of the mature master whose mode of expression was looser, more confident and generally makes greater use of hatching to create volume as can be seen in the underdrawing of Memling’s Virgin and Child with Saints Catherine of Alexandria and Barbara
(the Met, 14.40.634
The edge of the parapet in front of the Virgin and Child was underdrawn closer to the Christ Child’s feet, indicating that the artist was grappling with how to convincingly place the figures within the illusionistic framework [See Comparative Image, fig. 3]. Adjustments like this reflect the painter’s attempts to recombine various motifs borrowed from Memling models even at this preliminary stage. Further evidence for this can be found in the paint layers; the X-radiograph [See Comparative Image, fig. 4] shows an earlier placement of the Christ Child’s proper left arm before it was moved to its current position holding the flower. This particular alteration is significant in considering the relationship between the Lehman painting and the Master FVB’s engraving. Borchert characterizes the changes made in the underdrawing and paint stages as the Lehman painter taking ‘liberties with his model’, stating that these alterations increase the likelihood that the Master FVB’s engraving and not a painted source served as the artist’s main prototype. Apart from the movement of Jesus’s hand, which is indeed the most convincing piece of evidence for the hypothesis that the FVB picture was the Lehman artist’s main model, the presence of pentimenti does not provide substantive proof that the Lehman artist was looking primarily at the engraving as his source. Ultimately, as Borchert also notes, the engraving and the Lehman picture were, in all probability, based to varying degrees on an existing painting.
Dendrochronology places the creation of the work from 1473 at the earliest, which corresponds to the later years of Memling’s career. However, the rather disjointed composition suggests that the painting was not produced under the master’s supervision. Instead, this picture was more probably created by an artist active in the early sixteenth century who was aware of Memling’s work and was producing images for the open market in a popular, if somewhat retardataire style.
Nenagh Hathaway, 2018Notes
 The Turkish carpet in the Lehman painting does not precisely replicate the pattern of the Lisbon example, and instead is reminiscent of the carpets in Memling’s Virgin and Child Enthroned with Angels
(Washington, National Gallery of Art), the central panel of the Saint John Altarpiece
(Bruges, Sint-Janshospitaal), and a Virgin and Child
(Granada, Capilla Real). See Ferenc Batári, "The ‘Memling’ carpets," in Dirk De Vos, ed. Hans Memling
. Essays, Ghent, 1994, pp. 63-66.
 See Refs., Till-Holger Borchert, 2018 pp. 112-113.
 See Refs., Hulin de Loo, 1902, pp. 36, 58, no. 140; Friedländer, 1903, pp. 84; Eisler, 1961, pp. 63-64; Arndt, 1964, pp. 178.
 De Vos includes several other variants in his group of works attributable to ‘The Master of the Bache Virgin’ in Refs., De Vos, 1994, pp. 395-396.
 Martha Wolff describes these three works as "parallel late adaptations of Memling’s work" thus acknowledging that the paintings are by different hands. See Refs., Wolff in Sterling et al., 1998, 87.
 The connection between the Lisbon painting and the Lehman Virgin and Child
was noted by Wolff. See Refs., Sterling et al., 1998, pp. 85-87.
 Further discussion of this can be found in the Technical Notes section.
 See Refs., Wolff in Sterling et al., 1998, p. 85.
 See Refs., Till-Holger Borchert, 2018, pp. 112-113. This shift in hand positioning was noted by Wolff, 1998, p. 85.
 See report by Dr. Peter Klein, (report dated 3/9/1987, Lehman Collection Curatorial Files) and Technical Notes.References
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