(b. ca. 1440, Seligenstadt, d. 1494, Bruges)
Tommaso Portinari and his Wifec. 1470
Oil on wood, 44 x 34 cm (each)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Memling was one of the great portrait painters of the northern Renaissance, and a large number of portraits by him survive. Although born in Germany, he is considered a Flemish painter because he spent most of his life in Bruges, where he was influenced by Van Eyck in his quest for an exact likeness and fine detail.
Memling's work was particularly popular with members of the large Italian community in Bruges. Tommaso Portinari, a Florentine who represented the Medici bank in Bruges, married Maria Baroncelli in 1470, when he was 38 and she was 14. It was soon after their marriage that Portinari commissioned this exquisite pair of portraits of himself and his wife, which must have originally been the wings of a triptych. Portinari, who loved Flemish art, also commissioned Hugo van der Goes to paint the famous Portinari Altarpiece (now in the Uffizi, Florence).