(b. ca. 1440, Seligenstadt, d. 1494, Bruges)
Virgin Suckling the Child1487-90
Oil on oak panel, diameter 18 cm
Another autograph version of this small painting is in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Both tondos are roughly the same size and their composition is probably based on a lost tondo by the Master of Flémalle with the same dimensions. There is a whole series of versions of roughly the same type and format. In some cases the Virgin is facing to the left and in others to the right, which suggests the use of cartoons or tracings. The example closest in style to Flémalle, which might be a fairly faithful copy of the prototype, is a version facing to the right in Philadelphia. This tondo prototype was derived in turn from the life-sized Virgin of Frankfurt (Städelsches Kunstinstitut), a key work of the Master of Flémalle.
Comparison indicates that Memling's version follows the Philadelphia type very faithfully, in terms of both pose and details of costume. The dark background has been replaced by a golden ground speckled in red, and the style has been transposed. The work can, in fact, be viewed as a stylistically translated copy. This little painting displays all the characteristics of Memling's autograph work, including the brushwork, the typology and the underdrawing. The golden background and obsolescent typology give the work an archaic air. Nevertheless, closer examination reveals that it is rather related to Memling's later works. The less precise technique, for instance, with its visible brushstrokes strongly resembles the works in Granada. The facial type and the Child's hand also match those in the Granada Virgin and Child Enthroned. The face can be compared too with that of Bathsheba's servant girl, although the latter is bigger.