(b. ca. 1420, Tours, d. 1480, Tours)

Melun Diptych: Virgin and Child Surrounded by Angels

c. 1450
Wood, 93 x 85 cm
Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp

This is the right wing of a diptych, originally located in Melun. The left wing showing Étienne Chevalier and St Peter the Martyr is in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin.

On the right-hand shutter of what was once a diptych is a slender female figure standing, with one breast bare. She has the bulging shaved forehead fashionable at the period. Her face and skin as well as the body of the Infant Jesus are a pale grey-white, as if painted in grisaille; the grey-blue of her robe makes for an impression of fatigue and languor. The throne, sumptuously adorned with marble panels, pearls, precious stones and great gold tassels, is surrounded by cherubs painted in vivid red and blue; their figures, recalling two-dimensional decorations, completely fill the rest of the panel. There is a tradition that Agnés Sorel, this famous beauty of the period, was the model for this Madonna, and the extraordinarily fashionable and somewhat frivolous appearance of the figure, unbefitting the Queen of Heaven, gives some ground for believing it not too far from the truth. In The Waning of the Middle Ages Huizinga described this painting as a most appalling example of a dangerous blend of amorous and religious feelings. "There is a flavour of blasphemous boldness about the whole," he wrote.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.