MEMLING, Hans
(b. ca. 1440, Seligenstadt, d. 1494, Bruges)

Passion (Greverade) Altarpiece (central panel)

1491
Oil on wood, 205 x 150 cm
Museum für Kunst- und Kulturgedichte, Lübeck

International recognition of Memling's brilliance resulted around the end of 1480s in an important German commission, the last one recorded. The Passion triptych was painted on behalf of Heinrich Greverade or his brother Adolf (or both) for their chapel in Lübeck Cathedral. Heinrich was a merchant who represented the interests of the Hansa from the Oosterlingenhuis in Bruges. His brother became the master of Lübeck Cathedral in 1494. The donor shown in the altarpiece is probably Adolf, whose will made the foundation possible. For a variety of reasons, the chapel was not inaugurated until 1504, but the altarpiece dates from 149I and together with the Last Jjudgment, the St John altarpiece and the Nájera panels it is one of the biggest works painted by Memling.

It is a triptych with double wings. When open the Carrying the Cross (left wing), the Crucifixion (central panel) and the Resurrection (right wing) can be seen. In its first closed position, the four saints to whom the altar was dedicated are visible across the full width of the triptych. The actual exterior, showing an Annunciation in grisaille, is only revealed when the wings are closed a second time. This structure was not customary in the Low Countries and was probably inspired by German, especially Lübeck, examples.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 3 minutes):
Guillaume Dufay: Hymn for Easter