National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Madonna and Child Dirck Bouts (artist)
Netherlandish, c. 1415/1420 - 1475
Madonna and Child, c. 1465
oil on panel
overall: 22.5 x 15.5 cm (8 7/8 x 6 1/8 in.) framed: 28.4 x 20.9 cm (11 3/16 x 8 1/4 in.)
Patrons' Permanent Fund
1986.67.1
On View
From the Tour: Netherlandish Painting in the 1400s
Object 7 of 9

Dirck Bouts was a member of the second generation of artists who followed and pursued the style of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, but little is known about his life or career. He worked primarily in Louvain, in modern-day Belgium, and was married to a woman wealthy enough to be called "Metten Geld" (with money). This painting is one of only a very few to survive by the artist. It illustrates the noble solemnity of expression and the meticulous technique for which Bouts was known.

Small enough to fit in the palm of the hand, this tiny work was evidently an item of personal devotion. The light that falls on the Virgin and Child, their expressions, and their postures are subtly manipulated to make the infant appear bright and alert while the Madonna seems pensive and somber, her face darkened by sadness. Fifteenth-century viewers would have immediately interpreted this difference as evidence that Mary was foreseeing the future of Christ on the cross. They believed that the Virgin had suffered along with her son, actually experiencing the same pain. This kind of empathetic identification was an important element of religious life in the north during the fifteenth century. By meditating on such dramatic closeups of great immediacy, the worshiper also could experience Jesus' life and suffering in a direct and personal way.

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