Overview

This large panel painting by a follower of Robert Campin combines the new interest in nature of the fifteenth-century Netherlandish artists with a long tradition of symbolic religious painting. There is a thoroughly believable quality about the heavy folds of drapery, the delicate leaves of the flowers, and the shallow space within the garden walls. Yet this world is invested with mystical overtones through the figures' quiet poses and the minutely observed details which are painted in glowing oil colors and displayed in a steady light.

John the Baptist holds a lamb, recalling his recognition of Christ as the "Lamb of God." Seated on the left is Catherine of Alexandria with her sword and wheel, the instruments of her martyrdom. Saint Barbara offers Jesus an apple or a quince, an age-old symbol of love. Her special attribute is the impregnable tower, a symbol of her chastity. Half-hidden by Saint Anthony's robe, a pig beside him symbolizes gluttony, recalling his triumph over temptation.

The walled garden refers to a passage from the Song of Solomon where a bridegroom speaks of his beloved as "a garden enclosed ... a fountain sealed." To early Christian and medieval theologians, Mary became associated with this bride, and the enclosed garden symbolized her virginity and also the lost Eden which is regained through Christ's birth. Even the doorway recalls Christ's saying, "I am the door. No man cometh unto the Father but by me."

Inscription

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

A church in Bruges.[1] Imbert de Mottelettes, Bruges, by 1831.[2] Jonkheer de Potter-Soenens, Ghent, by 1839.[3] Countess de Oudemard.[4] (Wildenstein and Co., New York), 1946-1949; purchased June 1949 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York;[5] gift 1959 by exchange to NGA.

Exhibition History

1951
Twenty Five Paintings from the Collection of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson, 1951-1953, no. 15, as by studio of the Master of Flémalle.
1993
Stefan Lochner: Meister zu Köln, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, 1993-1994, no. 19, repro.
2008
The Master of Flémalle and Rogier van der Weyden, Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt; Kulturforum, Berlin, 2008-2009, no. 12, repro.

Bibliography

1833
"Nachrichten über die alt-niederländische Malerschule." Kunst-Blatt 81 (1833): 321.
1833
Passavant, J. D. Kunstreise durch England und Belgien. Frankfurt-am-Main, 1833: 348.
1839
Spyers, F. A. "Beschryving van twee ... Schilderyen uit de School der ... Van Eyck." Belgisch Museum voor der Nederduitsche Tael- en Letterkunde en de Geschiedenis des Vaderlands. Ghent, (1839): 3:182-189, repro. opp. 183.
1843
Passavant, J. D. "Beiträge zur Kenntniss der altniederländischen Malerschulen bis zur Mitte des sechzehnten Jahrhunderts." Kunst-Blatt 55 (1843): 230.
1845
Michiels, Alfred. Histoire de la peinture flamande et hollandaise. 4 vols. Brussels, 1845: 1:410-412.
1858
Nagler, Georg Kasper. Die Monogrammisten. 5 vols. Munich and Leipzig, 1858: 1:1, no. 1.
1951
Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation 1945-1951. Introduction by John Walker, text by William E. Suida. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1951: 168, no. 74, repro., as by Master of Flemalle Studio.
1953
Panofsky Erwin. Early Netherlandish Painting: Its Origins and Character. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1953: 1:425-426.
1954
Davies, Martin. Primitifs flamands. Corpus. The National Gallery London. 3 vols. Antwerp, 1954: 2:177, under no. 57.
1959
Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 277, repro., as by Master of Flémalle and Assistants.
1959
Richardson, E. P., ed. "Accessions of American and Canadian Museums, April-June 1959." The Art Quarterly 22, no. 3 (Autumn 1959): 273, 275, repro.
1960
Broadley Hugh T. Flemish Painting in the National Gallery of Art (Booklet no. 5 in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC). Washington, 1960: 3, 14-15, color repro.
1961
Meiss, Millard. "`Highlands' in the Lowlands: Jan van Eyck, the Master of Flémalle and the Franco-Italian Tradition." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 57 (1961): 277, 310, fig 5.
1961
Seymour, Charles. Art Treasures for America: An Anthology of Paintings & Sculpture in the Samuel H. Kress Collection. London, 1961: 12-14, 218, color fig. 9-11
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 304, repro., as Master of Flémalle and Assistants.
1964
Koch, Robert A. "Flower Symbolism in the Portinari Altar." The Art Bulletin 46 no. 1 (March 1964): 75.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 85, as by Master of Flémalle and Assistants.
1966
Frinta, Mojmír S. The Genius of Robert Campin. The Hague, 1966: 118, 120-121, fig. 72-73.
1966
Stange, Alfred. "Vier südflandrische Marientafeln. Ein Beitrag zur Genese der niederländischen Malerei." Alte und moderne Kunst 11, no. 89 (1966): 19, fig. 21.
1967
Van Gelder, J. G. "An early Work by Robert Campin." Oud Holland 82 (1967): 3-4.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture: Illustrations (Companion to the Summary Catalogue, 1965). Washington, 1968: 75, no. 1338, repro., as by Master of Flémalle and Assistants.
1971
Sterling, Charles. "Observations on Petrus Christus." The Art Bulletin 53 (1971): 5.
1971
Vos, Dirk de. "De Madonna-en-Kindtypologie bij Rogier van der Weyden." Jahrbuch der königlich Preussischen Kunstsammlungen (Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen) 13 (1971): 71, 74-80, 92, 97, 154, 156, 158, fig. 11.
1971
Ward, John L. "A Proposed Reconstruction of an Altarpiece by Roger van der Weyden." The Art Bulletin 53, no. 1 (March 1971): 32-33, fig 9.
1972
Davies, Martin. Rogier van der Weyden. London, 1972: 261.
1972
Kerber, Ottmar. "Die Hubertus-Tafeln von Rogier van der Weyden." Pantheon 30 (1972): 299.
1974
Bruyn, Josua. Review of Rogier van der Weyden by Martin Davies. The Burlington Magazine 116 (1974): 540.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 220, repro. 221.
1975
Verdier, Philippe. "La Trinité debout de Champmol." In Etudes d'art français offertes à Charles Sterling. Paris, 1975: 85.
1977
Eisler, Colin. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools Excluding Italian. Oxford, 1977: 46-50, fig. 47, color repro.
1977
Eisler, Colin. Review of Petrus Christus by Peter H. Schabacker. In Art Bulletin 59 (1977): 141.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 125, no. 113, color repro., as by Master of Flémalle and Assistants.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 71, repro.
1986
Hand, John Oliver and Martha Wolff. Early Netherlandish Painting. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1986: 35-40, color repro. 37.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 37, repro.
1998
Apostolos-Cappadona, Diane. "Virgin/Virginity." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. Edited by Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 2:905.
2012
Amsler, Mark. Affective Literacies: Writing and Multilingualism in the Late Middle Ages. Turnhout, 2012: color plate 4.

Technical Summary


\r[1] The frame and inscription are shown in the print in Speyers 1839, opp. 182. The inscription reads: O maria consolatrix. Esto nobis advocatrix Rogans regem glorie Ut nos Jungat Superis Donans nobis miseris / Post Spem frui Specie Que regina diceris Miserere [p?]osteris Virgo mater Gracie Amen (O Mary, our comforter, intercede for us asking the King of Glory that we may rejoin those on high, granting to us, wretches, the fulfillment of hope of seeing him. Thou, who art called Queen, Have mercy on us later born, Virgin Mother of Grace). The inscription is followed by a housemark. The same housemark appears as part of the illumination of a copy of Boethius' De Consolatione Philosophiae printed in Ghent in 1485 by Arend de Keysere, now in the Library of Congress; repro. in Sandra Hindman and James Douglas Farquhar, Pen to Press: Illustrated Manuscripts and Printed Books in the First Century of Printing [exh. cat. University of Maryland Art Department Gallery] (College Park, Maryland, 1977), pl. 3. While noting that the calligraphy of inscriptions needs further study, both Paul Saenger of the Northwestern University Library and P.F.J. Obbema of the Leiden University Library were inclined to date this inscription to the early sixteenth century, citing, for example, the type of flourishes and the form of the s (letters of 31 March 1983 and 23 June 1983 in curatorial files). [2] Speyers 1839, 188. Shortly after entering the De Potter-Soenens collection, the picture was cleaned and disfiguring overpaint, which had caused Passavant to consider it a pre-Eyckian tempera painting, was removed; see Passavant 1843, 230 and Nagler 1858, 1. I am grateful to Lorne Campbell for the first of these references.

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