Overview

In the tradition of his Flemish predecessors, Memling's painting contains a wealth of religious meaning; it is filled with symbols which explain the importance of Christ's mission on earth. Jesus reaches out for an apple, emblem of Original Sin; his attitude of acceptance foreshadows his future sacrifice on the cross. The angel who offers the fruit of redemption is in fact dressed in a dalmatic, the liturgical vestment worn by a deacon during the solemn High Mass. Around the arch is a carved vine of grapes referring to the wine of the eucharistic rite. On the crystal and porphyry columns stand David, as an ancestor of Christ, and Isaiah, one of the prophets who foretold the Virgin Birth.

Memling adhered closely to the northern tradition in art; the format and details of the enthroned Madonna theme recall Jan van Eyck. It is believed that Memling worked in the studio of Rogier van der Weyden at Brussels before settling in Bruges; here, he adopted Rogier's angular figural types clothed in heavy, crisp drapery, but transformed the older artist's dramatic intensity into a calm and graceful elegance. The framing archway was a device used by a number of Flemish painters including Rogier. While combining various influences, Hans Memling's own tender and pious sentiment made him the most popular artist of his day in Bruges.

Inscription

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Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Probably Leopold III Friedrich Franz, Duke of Anhalt-Dessau [1740-1817], Gotisches Haus, Wörlitz, near Dessau;[1] probably by inheritance to his grandson, Leopold IV Friedrich, Duke of Anhalt [1794-1871], Gotisches Haus; by inheritance to his son, Friedrich I, Duke of Anhalt [1831-1904], Gotisches Haus; by inheritance to his son, Friedrich II, Duke of Anhalt [1856-1918], Gotisches Haus; by inheritance to his son, Eduard Georg Wilhelm, Duke of Anhalt [1861-1918], Gotisches Haus; by inheritance to his son, Joachim Ernst, Duke of Anhalt [1901-1947], Gotisches Haus; sold early 1927 to (Hugo Perls, Berlin);[2] sold via the Mannheimer collection, Amsterdam, to (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris);[3] purchased November 1927 by Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 5 June 1931 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1902
Exposition des primitifs flamands et d'art ancien, Hôtel de Gouvernement Provincial, Bruges, 1902, no. 79.
1929
Loan Exhibition of Flemish Primitives, F. Kleinberger Galleries, Inc., New York, 1929, no. 22.

Bibliography

1872
Crowe, J. A., and G. B. Cavalcaselle. The Early Flemish Painters: Notices of Their Lives and Works. 2d ed. London, 1872: 273, 280.
1899
Kaemmerer, Ludwig. Memling. Bielefeld and Leipzig, 1899: 134, fig. 116.
1901
Weale, W. H. James. Hans Memling. London, 1901: 76, 104.
1902
Hulin de Loo, Georges. Bruges. Exposition de tableaux flamands des XIVe, XVe, XVIe siècles. Catalogue critique. Ghent, 1902: 18, no. 79.
1902
Hymans, Henri. "L'Exposition des primitifs flamands à Bruges." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 28 (1902): 288 (repr. as a book, Paris, 1902: 56).
1903
Friedländer, Max J. "Die Brügger Leihausstellung von 1902." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 26 (1903): 83.
1903
Weale, W. H. James. "The Early Painters of the Netherlands as Illustrated by the Bruges Exhibition of 1902." The Burlington Magazine 2 (1903): 35.
1904
Benoit, François. "Un Gérard David inconnu." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 32 (1904): 321.
1906
Wurzbach, Alfred von. Niederlandisches Kunstler-Lexikon. 3 vols. Vienna, 1906-1911: 2(1910):138, 143, 144.
1907
Vollmer, Hans. "Memling." In Thieme-Becker. 37 vols. Leipzig, 1907-1950: 26(1926):375-376..
1909
Voll, Karl. Memling (Klassiker der Kunst). Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1909: 136, repro. 178.
1913
Durand-Gréville, E. "Notes sur les primitifs néerlandais du Louvre." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 10 (1913): 426.
1924
Friedländer, Max J. Die altniederländische Malerei. 14 vols. Berlin and Leiden, 1924-1937. Berlin, 1934: 6:30, 127, no. 60, pl. 34. (English transl. 14 vols. Leiden, 1967-1976. Leiden, 1971: 6 pt. 2:21, 53, no. 60, pl. 104.)
1924
Vioux, Marcelle. Memling. Paris, 1924: 69.
1928
Hulin de Loo, Georges. "Hans Memlinc in Rogier van der Weyden's Studio." The Burlington Magazine 52 (1928): 171.
1930
International Studio 97 (December 1930): repro. 28.
1934
Huisman, Georges. Memlinc. Paris, 1934: 146.
1935
Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 135, repro. (English ed., Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939: 135, repro.).
1937
Cortissoz, Royal. An Introduction to the Mellon Collection. Boston, 1937: 34.
1937
Jewell, Edward Alden. "Mellon's Gift." Magazine of Art 30, no. 2 (February 1937): 72, repro.
1941
De Tolnay, Charles. "Flemish Paintings in the National Gallery of Art." Magazine of Art 34 (1941): 181-182, 200, fig. 10.
1941
Duveen Brothers. Duveen Pictures in Public Collections in America. New York, 1941: no. 178, repro.
1941
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 132, no. 41.
1942
Baldass, Ludwig von. Hans Memling. Vienna, 1942: 22, 43, no. 70, fig. 70.
1942
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 240, repro. 39.
1945
Comstock, Helen. "A Memling for the Nelson Gallery of Art." The Connoisseur 116 (1945): 37.
1949
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 57, repro.
1952
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 86, color repro.
1953
Panofsky Erwin. Early Netherlandish Painting: Its Origins and Character. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1953: 1:349-350, 507, 2:pl. 320, fig. 481.
1955
Verhaegen, Nicole. "Notes à propos de Jean Gossart et d'une `Tentation de S. Antoine'." Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique 4 (1955): 181.
1956
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 9, 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: 24-25, color repro.
1960
Wilkenski, R. H. Flemish Painters, 1430-1830. New York, 1960: 686.
1961
Birkmeyer, Karl M. "The Arch Motif in Netherlandish Painting of the Fifteenth Century: A Study in Changing Religious Imagery." Art Bulletin 43, no. 2 (June 1961): 110-111, fig. 29.
1962
Mirimonde, Albert P. de. "Les anges musiciens chez Memling." Jaarboek van het Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen (1962/1963): 14, 53.
1963
McNamee, M. B. "Further Symbolism in the Portinari Altarpiece." Art Bulletin 45 no. 2 (June 1963): 143, fig. 2.
1963
Schoute, Roger Van. Primitifs flamands. Corpus: Grenada. Brussels, 1963: 77.
1964
Denis, Valentin. "Memling." In Encyclopedia of World Art. 16 vols. New York, London, and Toronto, 1959-1983. Vol. 9 (1964): column 733.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 89
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:86-87, color repro.
1968
Cuttler, Charles D. Northern Painting, from Pucelle to Bruegel: Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Centuries. New York, 1968: 175, fig. 217
1968
Galvan, Jose Maria Moreno, ed. Galleria Nazionale di Washington. Madrid, 1968: 21, color fig. 1.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture: Illustrations (Companion to the Summary Catalogue, 1965). Washington, 1968: 78, no. 41, repro.
1969
Corti, Maria, and Giorgio T. Faggin. L'opera completa di Memling. Milan, 1969: 107, no. 78, repro.
1969
Pauwels, H. In Antonieme Vlaamse Primitieven. Exh. cat. Groeningemuseum, Bruges, 1969: 45-46.
1969
Rensch, Roslyn. The Harp: Its History, Technique and Repertoire. London, 1969: 55, pl. 18a.
1971
Ward, John L. "A Proposed Reconstruction of an Altarpiece by Rogier van der Weyden." Art Bulletin 53, no. 1 (March 1971): 29.
1972
Campbell, Lorne. Review of Hans Memling by K. B. McFarlane. In Apollo 96 (1972): 564.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 230, repro. 231.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 130, no. 126, repro.
1977
Eisler, Colin. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools Excluding Italian. Oxford, 1977: 59, under K2088 (1961.9.28).
1984
Lane, Barbara G. The Altar and the Altarpiece: Sacramental Themes in Early Netherlandish Painting. New York, 1984: 32, fig. 21.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 130, no. 120, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 266, repro.
1986
Hand, John Oliver and Martha Wolff. Early Netherlandish Painting. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1986: 184-188, repro. 185.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 22, 68, color repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 42, repro.
1994
Klein, Peter. "Dendrochronological Analysis of Panels of Hans Memling." In Hans Memling: Essays. Edited by Dirk De Vos. Bruges, 1994: 103.
1994
Vos, Dirk de. Hans Memling: The Complete Works. Translated by Ted Alkins. Antwerp and Ghent, 1994: no. 77, 226-277, color fig.
1998
Dwyer, Eugene. "Luxury." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. Edited by Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 1:533, 534.
1998
Esch, Anke. "Het boogmotief bij der Vlaamse primitieven: Een synthese." In Dirk Bourts (ca. 1410-1475), een Vlaams primitief te Leuven. Exh. cat. Leuven 1998. Leuven, 1998: 177, fig. 11.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 48-49, no. 35, color repro.
2005
Michelman, Dorothea S. "A German Treasure Trove: The National Gallery of Art." German Life (June/July 2005): 42, color fig.
2005
Snyder, James. Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, the Graphic Arts from 1350 to 1575. Revised by Larry Silver and Henry Luttikhuizen. Upper Saddle River, 2005: 202; 196, col. fig. 10.7.
2007
Lane, Barbara G. Hans Memling: Master Painter in Fifteenth-Century Bruges. London, 2009: 63-64, 318-319, 47.
2007
Michiels, Alfred. Hans Memling. New York, 2007: 56, 58, color fig.

Conservation Notes

The panel is composed of two boards aligned vertically with a join 34.2 cm from the left edge. It is mounted on a thin secondary panel of the same wood as the cradle. There are numerous very small losses, especially at the top left and top right corners and the bottom of the right angel's robe. Losses along the splits and the join have been filled and inpainted. The Madonna's features and some of the outlines of her robe have been strengthened. In general the numerous tiny strokes of inpainting make the picture appear to be in more pristine condition than is actually the case.

The figural group and the landscape are underdrawn in what seems to be black chalk.

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