BOUTS, Dieric the Elder
(b. ca. 1415, Haarlem, d. 1475, Leuven)

St Hippolyte Triptych

after 1468
Oil on wood, 90 x 89,2 cm (central panel), 92 x 41 cm (each wing)
Museum of Sint Salvator Kathedral, Brugge

The Hippolytus altarpiece and a number of other paintings from Holy Savour's Cathedral in Bruges were placed in the Groeninge Museum for conservation reasons in 1992.

The left wing, with its portraits, clearly reveals the hand of the Ghent master Hugo van der Goes. It is impossible to say whether the painting was a collaborative effort or whether Van der Goes added the donors' portraits to an unfinished triptych.

Bouts was a contemporary of Petrus Christus and was probably trained in his native Haarlem. Some time around 1447 he settled in Leuven where he received important ecclesiastical and municipal commissions. The central panel shows the martyrdom of Saint Hippolytus. His pale, slender body contrasts with the brightly coloured knights, whose outlines stand out against the steeply rising ground. The rarefied, seemingly emotionless atmosphere imbues Bouts' often cruel scenes with an oppressive silence. The coats of arms on the rear of the wings, which also feature grisailles of the respective patron saints, enable us to identify the donors as Hippolyte de Berthoz, Charles the Bold's treasurer, and his wife Elisabeth Hugheins. The painting must have been commissioned some time after 1468.