National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Marriage of the Virgin Bernard van Orley (artist)
Netherlandish, c. 1488 - 1541
The Marriage of the Virgin, c. 1513
oil on panel
painted surface: 54.4 x 33 cm (21 7/16 x 13 in.) overall (panel): 55.5 x 34 cm (21 7/8 x 13 3/8 in.) framed: 63 x 41.8 x 5.7 cm (24 13/16 x 16 7/16 x 2 1/4 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1952.5.48
On View
From the Tour: The Netherlands and France in the 1500s
Object 5 of 8

The panels, The Marriage of the Virgin (shown here) and Christ among the Doctors, were commissioned by a Benedictine abbot who probably used them for private devotion. The back of one bears his coat of arms and the other might have originally had his portrait.

The marriage of the Virgin and Joseph is a story not found in the Bible but popular in late medieval religious literature. In Christ among the Doctors young Jesus confounds the doctors of learning with his uncanny knowledge. Van Orley’s early works, including these, are distinguished by dramatic gestures and fascination with the changing colors of silks. Notice, for example, the shimmering iridescence of blue turning to gold and pink in the dress of the two men flanking young Jesus.

Though van Orley assimilated Renaissance style, it is not clear whether he actually traveled to Italy. Italian style moved north in a number of ways. The elaborate Renaissance porticoes here may have been influenced, for example, by the drawings of other northern artists. Or they may reflect the ceremonial structures erected for the triumphal entry of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V into Bruges. A few years after these panels were painted, van Orley himself received a series of influential designs by Raphael when he supervised the weaving in Brussels of Raphael’s tapestries for the Sistine Chapel. Increasingly van Orley became known also as a designer of tapestries and stained glass.

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