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

Virgin with the Child Reaching for his Toe

1490s
Oil on oak panel, 24,1 x 17,8 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Virgin is in a loggia contained at the back by two small columns in reddish-brown marble and offering a view onto a wooded landscape. In front, on a parapet cut across by the edge of the painting, the Infant Christ sits on a cloth. He is restrained by the Virgin's left hand and from her right hand he is about to receive an apple, while with his own right hand he playfully reaches for his toe.

In terms of its composition and typology, the painting exhibits the well-known Memling characteristics, but technically it is heavily executed with rough modelling of the hands, the features and the drapery. It has clearly been painted by an average follower of Memling. Similar robust features and a face with rather oriental eyes are to be seen in a number of other Memlingian Virgins at half length. So a master can be assumed who has concentrated mainly on imitating Memling's Virgin-and-Child types.

The fact that the composition was repeated again and again and even by great painters such as Juan de Flandes and Jan Provoost indicates that a lost Memling prototype must have existed.




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