MASTER of the Legend of Saint Ursula (I)
(active 1480-1500 in Bruges)
Diptych with the Virgin and Child and Three Donors1486
Oil on oak panels, 28 x 21 cm
Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp
The Master of the Legend of St Ursula was never a real imitator of Memling. Yet one cannot deny that the conception of the three portraits is unimaginable without the latter. The donors' panel is in structure as it were a simplified detail of the 1484 Moreel triptych )Groeninge Museum, Bruges) by Memling. The Virgin is less dependent upon Memling and typologically much closer to Dieric Bouts. The facial type with high rounded forehead and an inlet in the hair on both sides, and the Child with his awkwardly turned leg, are both typical. The motif of the book already appears in Van der Weyden's Durán Virgin Prado, Madrid) and was later used by various painters. The round throne and the canopy held open by angels is an invention of the master himself and a recurrent motif in his oeuvre. The carnation may here refer to the Salvation.
This diptych is the Ursula Master's only dated work. Moreover, the age of the donors is also inscribed on the frame. They probably belonged to the same family.