(b. ca. 1440, Seligenstadt, d. 1494, Bruges)

Diptych with the Deposition

Oil on oak panel, 53,8 x 38,3 cm (each panel)
Museo de la Capilla Real, Granada

The left panel of the diptych represents the Deposition, while the right the Weeping Women.

There is an older variant of this composition, whose wings are now in a private collection and the Museu de Arte, São Paulo. Despite its ruinous state, it also seems to be autograph.

In terms of its iconography, the composition is a conflation of a Lamentation and a Deposition. By focusing in on the body as it is descended from the Cross, the scene loses its general anecdotal character and takes on instead a similar contemplative function to a Lamentation or Pietà on the ground. The panels are conceived as a spatial unit with a continuous landscape. The cropping of the figures along the boundary between the two panels must have been filled in and compensated for by the now missing frame. The overall effect is thus that of a realistic close-up with a devotional function. The body of Christ in the New York-São Paulo diptych is cut of above the knees and there are only two Holy Women in addition to Mary Magdalene. In the Granada version, Christ is shown to below his knees, his arms hanging over the shoulders of Joseph of Arimathea on the left and Nicodemus on the right, and there are three Holy Women present. There are further differences between the gestures, head movements and types. An instructive comparison can be made with a similar diptych on canvas, which is attributed to Hugo van der Goes. Careful comparison reveals that Memling drew upon Van der Goes particularly for the first diptych. There are also borrowings from the lost Deposition by the Master of Flémalle, which was installed in St James' Church in Bruges. Memling thus created a new type by merging the compositions of the Master of Flémalle and Hugo van der Goes.