CHRISTUS, Petrus
(b. 1410/20, Baarle, d. 1475/76, Brugge)

Madonna

c. 1445
Wood, 55,5 x 31,5 cm
Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest

We know very little about the life of Petrus Christus, though it is certain that in 1444 he obtained the citizenship of Bruges, then the richest town in Flanders and its main artistic centre. He may have been the pupil of Jan van Eyck, and in his surviving panel paintings we can see that his solutions to problems of composition and his figure types are similar to those of his predecessor. Indeed Christus's delicately wrought and brilliantly coloured works served to popularise the technique and manner of Van Eyck.

Some fifteen to twenty works by Christus are known, one of which is The Virgin and Child, probably the surviving part of a triptych for home devotion. Framed by a semi-circular arch resting on slender columns and with a pleasant landscape in the background, the Virgin looks tenderly down at the naked Infant supported on her arm. Every detail has been painted with meticulous care - the minute wrinkles on the Infant's face, the foliage of the trees in the distance and the statuette of Adam and Eve on the columns at the sides, which, in alluding to the Fall, emphasize the coming Redemption through Christ. Other versions and copies have survived, indicating the popularity of this picture over the years, but unfortunately none of them give any clue as to when it was painted or who commissioned it.