Hans Memling (artist)|
Netherlandish, active c. 1465 - 1494
Saint Veronica [obverse], c. 1470/1475
oil on panel
painted surface: 30.3 x 22.8 cm (11 15/16 x 9 in.) overall (panel): 31.2 x 24.4 cm (12 5/16 x 9 5/8 in.) framed: 38.9 x 31.8 x 3.8 cm (15 5/16 x 12 1/2 x 1 1/2 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
Object 8 of 9
This two-sided panel was once the right wing of a diptych. On the front we see Veronica, among the most venerated saints of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Several legends about her were conflated and she was identified with different people, including the compassionate woman who gave Jesus a cloth as he struggled on the way to Calvary; when he wiped his brow with the cloth, it was miraculously imprinted with his face. By the 12th century, a cloth believed to be Veronica's veil had entered the Vatican. Indulgences (reducing time in purgatory and even remitting sin) were granted for reciting prayers either before the relic or before images of it. Veronica was also invoked against the danger of sudden death before confession. On the reverse of the panel, a snake slithers from a chalice, referring to an event in the life of John the Evangelist when he blessed a poison cup and drank from it without harm. The serpent represents the departing poison and points to the promise of salvation in the eucharistic wine. The left panel of the diptych (now in Munich) depicts John the Baptist, with a skull on the reverse.
Memling worked primarily for the middle class and the resident Italian community in Bruges. He apparently studied with Rogier van der Weyden, but he did not adopt Rogier's intensely emotional style. His subjects are devout, but placid, his landscapes infused with late summer stillness. By the time of his death, Memling supported a large workshop and was among Bruges' wealthiest citizens. His work was also popular in Italy, where it was admired for its clear colors and delicate vistas. Details of the landscape in this panel, which once belonged to the Venetian humanists Bernardo and Pietro Bembo, may have influenced the young Raphael.
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