National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Saint Anne Altarpiece: Saint Anne with the Virgin and Child [middle panel] Gerard David and Workshop
Gerard David (painter)
Netherlandish, c. 1460 - 1523
Anonymous Artist (painter)
Gerard David (related artist)
Netherlandish, c. 1460 - 1523
The Saint Anne Altarpiece: Saint Anne with the Virgin and Child [middle panel], c. 1500/1520
oil on panel
painted surface (including addition at top): 232.5 x 96 cm (91 9/16 x 37 13/16 in.) overall (panel): 236.1 x 97.5 cm (92 15/16 x 38 3/8 in.)
Widener Collection
1942.9.17.b
Not on View
From the Tour: The Netherlands and France in the 1500s
Object 4 of 8

Originally the center panel, which shows Saint Anne seated with her daughter Mary and Jesus, was taller than the flanking ones of Saint Nicholas (left) and Anthony of Padua (right), and all three had arched tops. Probably they stood above a predella of six smaller scenes (now in other museums) that presented events in the life of the two male saints. Since this arrangement is typical for southern rather than northern Europe, the altarpiece was probably commissioned by a patron in Italy or Spain, where Netherlandish painting was extremely popular.

No master would have completed such a large commission alone. Today, new scientific techniques, especially infrared reflectography, which makes it possible to see the underdrawing hidden beneath the paint, are helping to discern the participation of workshop assistants. Here the basic composition in all three panels was drawn with sketchy parallel strokes, probably with charcoal or black chalk. In the central panel only there is additional underdrawing in ink or paint. This provides more detailed instructions and could indicate that David’s assistants, who would have needed more guidance than the master himself, were responsible for the center panel. Presumably David painted much of the two wings himself. Notice how the underdrawing shows through the folds in Anne’s robe as blue-gray hatching.

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