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

Man of Sorrows

after 1490
Oil on oak panel, 12,9 x 92,2 cm
Christian Museum, Esztergom

The Man of Sorrows is shown half-length against a heavily darkened, greenish-blue background. His figure cuts across a grey, moulded stone frame painted in trompe-l'oeil, which gives it the appearance of emerging from the painting three-dimensionally. This is an established illusionistic effect already used by Van Eyck for his niche figures (Annunciation, Madrid, Fundación Thyssen-Bornemisza) but which was first applied to living figures by Memling in the Portinari portraits in New York. The devotional type of the suffering Christ who displays the wounds inflicted by his death on the Cross in order directly to engage the compassion of the believer is a familiar one in fifteenth-century Northern European art. The Man of Sorrows with the angels of the Last Judgment (1444-46) by Petrus Christus (Birmingham, City Art Gallery) is a direct precursor. Memling developed several other variations on this traditional typological theme.

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