UNKNOWN MASTER, Flemish
(last quarter of the 15th century)
Virgin and Child1475-1500
Oil on oak panel, 38 x 29,7 cm
The Virgin is carrying the naked Infant Christ, who is sitting on a cloth, in both hands. She is in front of a wall-hanging in red-gold brocade and is clothed in a dark blue garment with a grey fur lining and a mantle of the same colour (in fact it has darkened into blue-green). With his left hand the Child reaches for the hanger of a necklace made of red coral (possibly an allusion to the blood of his sacrifice), and in his other hand he holds a pear (as the fruit of the `new Adam', an allusion to Salvation). The Virgin is situated in front of a golden balustrade with an arcade of rounded arches which encloses the choir of a church with stained-glass windows. She appears behind a golden arch resting on brown marble pillars. The image should probably be interpreted as a Virgin who is standing behind a low wall supporting an arch. The top of this little wall was originally probably visible and seems to have been sawn off.
This Virgin-and-Child type is frequently encountered in works by Memling and his followers, sometimes with the Child sitting on the wall. Related examples by Memling are: the Van Nieuwenhove Virgin (Memlingmuseum, Bruges); the Virgin and Child in Lisbon (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga). A similar type by a Memling follower is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
The little work discussed here is also Memlingian from a stylistic point of view. The type of the Virgin with the bulging forehead, the long straight nose and the narrow bow-shaped eyebrows is particularly closely related to Memling. The faces, however, are flatter and squarer, especially in the case of the Child. Apart from the Virgin type the staffage and architectural surroundings have the same roots: red brocade hangings with vegetally decorated edges, brown marble columns on each side, perspective of a church interior with stained-glass windows consisting of small coloured squares.