(b. ca. 1440, Seligenstadt, d. 1494, Bruges)
Scenes from the Passion of Christ (left side)1470-71
Oil on oak panel
Galleria Sabauda, Turin
The following scenes are depicted in the painting.
1. Entry into Jerusalem (left side) Having taken leave of his mother (she stands on the far left with Mary Magdalene), Christ rides a donkey towards the gate of the city, followed on foot by the Apostles. The people cut off palm branches and take off their cloaks, which they spread out on the ground. A man, his knees half-bent, doffs his cap. This pose is a standard one for its time, and appears particularly frequently in Van der Goes.
2. Christ Drives the Money-Lenders from the Temple (left side)
3. Judas with the High Priests (left side) This scene takes place diagonally below the previous one in a chapel-like space lit by torches. Judas is seen amongst the Pharisees who have given him a purse of money in return for his betrayal of Christ.
4. Last Supper (left side) The moment depicted is that where John, his head on his master's chest, asks the name of the traitor, to which Christ responds by placing a piece of bread in Judas' mouth, whereupon Judas leaves.
5. Prayer in the Garden (left side)
6. Arrest of Christ (left side) Judas kisses Christ to identify him to the soldiers and Peter cuts off Malchus' ear. The action takes place in the dark. The soldiers emerge with torches from an archway lower down. A peacock sits on the city wall. The symbolism of this bird probably does not relate to the scene to its left but to the overall iconography of the Redemption and Rebirth.
7. Denial of Peter (left side) Peter can be made out in a small side building, together with a glimpse of Caiaphas' maid, who has recognised him. The cock is shown above between the statues of Adam and Eve, who function as symbols of human weakness.
8. Christ before Pilate (middle) Pilate, seated on his throne and assisted by two high officials, interrogates Christ. The man on the left will accompany him to Golgotha. The figure on the right is the one who paid Judas in the earlier scene. Pilate's wife touches his shoulder and urges him to be cautious. A young servant holds the basin of water in which Pilate will later wash his hands. A sculpted portrayal of the Judgment of Solomon appears above as a contrast to the cowardly jjudgment of Pilate.
9. Flagellation (middle) On either side of the arched opening stand white stone sculptures of bearded, naked men, one with a jawbone in his hand, the other with a bow and arrow. No satisfactory explanation has yet been offered for these figures. The arch itself is decorated with a vine motif between two snails.
10. Second Interrogation by Pilate (right side) This scene takes place to the right of the Ecce Homo in a narrow little building set further back. It is clearly intended to depict Christ (with an aureole) appearing before Pilate. This is the episode in which Christ is brought before the Roman governor once again after his flagellation, when he confirms that he is the King of the Jews. It immediately precedes the Crowning with Thorns. In spatial terms, therefore, this secondary scene has been pulled out of sequence.
11. Crowning with Thorns (middle)
12. Ecce Homo (middle) Herod, with his wife behind him in the shadows, shows Christ to the people who, by their gestures, condemn him to crucifixion.
13. Making of the Cross (middle) As Christ's torture proceeds, two joiners construct the Cross. Their tools comprise a long hatchet, a large and a small drill and a wooden hammer.
14. Carrying of the Cross (right side) A long procession departs from the city gate. John, Mary and two Holy Women follow Christ, who falls to his knees and looks at the viewer. He is preceded by the two thieves. A dog sniffs around to the lower left.
15. Nailing to the Cross (right side) Amongst those present we recognise Pilate and his acolyte. The compositional type of this scene is rather rare for the art of its period, but does feature frequently in prints. In both cases, Germany appears to have provided most examples.
16. Crucifixion (middle) To the left of the Cross we see the blind Longinus, whose sight is restored, and to the right the converted centurion. At the bottom of the scene Herod and his companion ride back down the mountain. Below them and to the left we see a monkey, a symbol of the devil, which Memling used repeatedly.
17. Deposition (right side) The type is clearly inspired by the large triptych by the Master of Flémalle that was located in St James' Church in Bruges, a fragment of which survives in Frankfurt (Städelsches Kunstinstitut).
18. Entombment (right side)
19. Christ in Limbo (right side)
20. Resurrection (right side)
21. Noli me tangere (right side)
22. Men of Emmaus (right side)
23. Christ Appearing by the Sea of Galilee (right side)