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

Triptych of Adriaan Reins (closed)

1480
Oil on oak panel, 45,3 x 15,3 cm (each wing)
Memlingmuseum, Sint-Janshospitaal, Bruges

The closed altarpiece represents St Wilgefortis or Uncumber (with crown, beard and cross) and St Mary of Egypt (naked with three loaves). They are shown in a late-Gothic portal arch, whose decoration is related to that in the Floreins triptych. St Wilgefortis was the daughter of the king of Portugal, who wished to remain a virgin and not to be married to a heathen prince. In response to her prayers, she was given a beard to put off her suitor, with the result that her father subsequently had her crucified. St Mary of Egypt was a reformed prostitute who spent the remainder of her life in the wilderness, with just three loaves to sustain her. The linkage of these two saints might rely on the contrast between their respective hagiographies. Both represent total dedication to Christ: one as a martyr, the other as a penitent. Like St Barbara, Wilgefortis was invoked against sudden death without benefit of the last sacraments. St Mary of Egypt was the patroness of the Filles-Dieu nuns at St Julian's Hospice.




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