National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS

Image: Artistic Exchange: Europe and the Islamic World

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Hans Memling
Bruges, active c. 1465 - 1494
Madonna and Child with Angels
after 1479, oil on panel
painted surface: 57.6 x 46.4 cm
panel: 58.8 x 48 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
Image: Hans Memling
Madonna and Child with Angels, after 1479
Andrew W. Mellon Collection

In Memling's many paintings of the Virgin and Child, he often honored the Madonna by placing an oriental carpet before her throne. The carpets he painted are based on two early Turkish geometric field designs, both comprising rows of square compartments with repeated octagonal motifs. These motifs descend from guls, emblems of Central Asian Turkoman tribes who migrated to Turkey. Inventories of Memling's time call the pattern shown here a "wheel carpet," after the shape of its gul. About 1900 this pattern was named the "large pattern Holbein," after the German painter Hans Holbein, the Younger (1497/1498-1543), who represented it precisely. Another gul pattern, which Memling painted often, now bears his name. Memling either exercised considerable artistic license in depicting the Turkish carpets that he saw or represented European variants of them. While realistic and individual, Memling's representations vary considerably from the carpets that survive from the Renaissance period.

Compare the carpet in Memling's painting to a 16th-century Anatolian carpet fragment.

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