GOES, Hugo van der
(b. ca. 1440, Ghent, d. 1482, Bruxelles)

Portinari Triptych

1476-79
Oil on wood, 253 x 586 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

This large triptych is the most important work of the Flemish artist Hugo van der Goes, constituting the basis for a reconstruction of the artist's entire oeuvre. It was painted in Bruges and was commissioned to the artist by Tommaso Portinari, an agent of the Medicean bank who resided in the city with his family The painting was intended for the high altar of Sant' Egidio, the church of the Arcispedale of Santa Maria Nuova founded in 1288 by the banker's ancestor Folco Portinari. Shipped from Bruges by sea, with the financial aid of the banker Niccolò di Giovanni Capponi, it arrived in Pisa by way of Sicily. The painting was then transported along the Arno and finally completed its tortuous journey at the Porta San Frediano in Florence on 28 May 1483. From here it was carried to its destination by sixteen strong porters under the surveillance of Meo di Tingo, an envoy of the Arcispedale. In 1567 the triptych was dismembered.

When the work arrived in Florence, it immediately caused a sensation among the people and attracted a considerable following among contemporary artists. The triptych had an enormous impact, noticeably influencing the art of manuscript illustration in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries as well as illustrious representatives of Umbrian painting like Luca Signorelli.