Virgin and Child with Saints Catherine of Alexandria and Barbara

Artist: Hans Memling (Netherlandish, Seligenstadt, active by 1465–died 1494 Bruges)

Date: early 1480s

Medium: Oil on wood

Dimensions: Overall 26 7/8 x 28 7/8 in. (68.3 x 73.3 cm); painted surface 26 3/8 x 28 3/8 in. (67 x 72.1 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913

Accession Number: 14.40.634


The picture’s harmonious composition was adapted from a large, celebrated altarpiece Hans Memling completed in 1479 for the Sint-Janshospitaal in Bruges. This smaller, more modest version was commissioned by an anonymous donor who kneels at the left. He is shown reciting his rosary as he contemplates Saint Catherine’s mystic marriage to the infant Christ. Saint Barbara, whose attribute—the tower—is behind her, sets a meditative example by reading.

The grape arbor above the Virgin’s throne and canopy was most likely added shortly after Memling’s lifetime, in the early sixteenth century, when the cult of the Eucharist became increasingly popular.