WEYDEN, Rogier van der
(b. 1400, Tournai, d. 1464, Bruxelles)
Oil on oak panel, 18,5 x 12 cm (each)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
The two small panels, representing the Madonna and St Catherine of Alexandria, respectively, probably formed a diptych.
The busts of prophets on the outside of the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck were the model for the bust of God the Father at the top of the left panel. The figures of Adam and Eve were from the same source. The picture is usually regarded as an early work by Rogier himself from the years 1432-35, but the figure of the Madonna is probably after Jan van Eyck's Madonna of the Fountain, dated 1439, in Antwerp.
The right panel is rather weaker, and is not by the same painter as the Madonna. As a king's daughter, Catherine has a crown, but she has taken it off, perhaps a sign of humility and reverence before the Madonna, and has placed it on the ground to lie there ignored. The wheel, her attribute, refers to the failure of the attempt to break her on the wheel; the martyr was finally beheaded with a sword.