(b. ca. 1440, Seligenstadt, d. 1494, Bruges)
Virgin and Child in a Rose-Garden with Two Angels1480s
Oil on oak panel, 37,7 x 27,7 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid
This small, intimate painting has sometimes been viewed unjustly as a possible workshop piece or described as having been marred by restoration. It is, on the contrary, an exquisite work which, though damaged in places, with its finely painted city view on the left, is still of extraordinary quality.
This is one of the variants in the series of Virgins accompanied by one or more angels that proved to be such a successful part of Memling's oeuvre. The Child's pose is the typological match of the Virgin Enthroned in Berlin, with both examples deriving from a prototype of Rogier van der Weyden. The angels hold musical instruments - a partially hidden lute on the left, and a fiddle on the right. Their albs and wings are painted in refined hues, in Memling's characteristic fashion: the angel on the left in white with grey wings, and the one on the right with a delicate lilac sheen and light purple wings, blending into yellow around the edges. The Virgin sits in a small, enclosed garden, as in the Munich diptych, before a hedge of white and red roses, with a white lily in their midst. The Marian symbolism of this is clear, as is the fact that the spot is sealed off from the remainder of the landscape by a reinforced wall to the rear. Mary is allegorically represented as a fortress.
The little work must have been executed in the 1480s, given its stylistic similarities with the Diptych of Jean du Cellier.