WEYDEN, Rogier van der
(b. 1400, Tournai, d. 1464, Bruxelles)
Sforza Triptychc. 1460
Oil on oak panel, 53,7 x 44,8 (central panel), 53,7 x 19 cm (wings each)
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
Around 1460 an altarpiece of remarkably irregular composition, known as the Sforza Triptych, was painted for Alessandro Sforza (1409-1479), a member of the Pesaro branch of the famous Sforza family of Milan. This altarpiece was the product either of Rogier's workshop or of another Brussels studio strongly influenced by his style.
Alessandro Sforza is kneeling before the Crucifixion at the centre - his head was painted on a separate piece of foil and then stuck into the picture - with two members of his family who cannot be identified for certain. On the same level, the wings of the triptych show St Bavo and St Francis on the left, and St Catherine and St Barbara on the right. The division of the altarpiece into two zones is very unusual: it makes the Nativity of Christ and John the Baptist in the upper area of the wings appear to be above rather than behind the figures in the foreground of the lower area.