(b. ca. 1440, Seligenstadt, d. 1494, Bruges)
Triptych of Jan Crabbe1467-70
Oil on oak panel, 78 x 63 cm (central panel), 83,3 x 26,7 cm (each wing)
Museo Civico, Vicenza
The triptych has been dismantled at some stage in its history to allow the different panels to be sold individually. This occurred frequently from the eighteenth century onwards. The interior of the side panels are now in the The Morgan Library and Museum, New York. In view of the style and the continuous composition, there is no reason to doubt the linkage between these panels and the central panel in Vicenza. The exterior of the side panels, now in the Groeninge Museum, Bruges, depicts the Annunciation in grisaille.
The triptych had been commissioned by Jan Crabbe, twenty-sixth abbot of Ter Duinen Abbey in Koksijde (1457-1488), to mark the occasion of his fifteenth anniversary as prelate in 1472. The other figures in the painting were identified as his mother Anna and his brother Willem. This identification is highly plausible in chronological terms as far as Jan Crabbe is concerned. Crabbe was the only Flemish Cistercian abbot with the first name Jan in Memling's time. The praying abbot here is indeed a Cistercian, and is protected by both St John the Baptist and St Bernard.