JUAN DE FLANDES
(b. ca. 1465, ?, d. 1519, Palencia)
Virgin and Child before a Landscapec. 1510
Oil on panel, 26 x 19,5 cm
The composition of this remarkably refined little painting is based on a lost small work by Memling, which is best reflected in the Virgin of the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Since the dimensions correspond, the work must have been done with a tracing or punch-cardboard based on the original. The version discussed here shows the image in the right direction. The Virgin is represented high above a landscape, more monumental than the prototype. She stands behind a wall over which a white cloth is draped with very heavy folds. This also differs from the model. The panel was incorrectly ascribed to Michel Sittow, and later attributed to Juan de Flandes in 1966. On account of the quality, the typical facial features and the vaporous green-grey landscape, this attribution cannot be doubted.
The panel originated about the time of the Retablo Mayor of Palencia (c. 1510) and may have been the central panel of a small triptych described in the accounts of Palencia Cathedral as the 'tabla oratorio de tress pieças'. If so, it could have been a work in the style of Memling's Triptych of Benedetto Portinari (Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi), with a donor and a saint in front of a continuous landscape on the wings.