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Rogier van der Weyden

(Follower of)Virgin and Child

Panel: 23,4 x 14,4 cm
Circa 1500

introduction

This panel of the Virgin and Child belongs to the iconography developed by Rogier van der Weyden, particular to private devotion in the 15th century. It is a half-length view of the Virgin nursing the Child, set against a flecked golden background, representing the heavens and featuring the Virgin's shining halo. She is clothed in a red dress, symbol of the dolor Christi, covered by a blue cape, a colour representing perseverantia, two colours frequently used to portray the Virgin. Her naked breast is partially covered by a transparent veil. Here, the Virgin incarnates the metaphor of Mother Church giving spiritual sustenance to its faith. She is carrying the Child in both hands while looking downwards with a dreamy expression, imbued with maternal tenderness and saddened by sombre presentiments. The naked Child is lightly wrapped in a white linen. He is holding a pansy in his left hand; its three colours - white, yellow and blue - symbolising the Trinity. The top of the frame is arched and the painting has been executed on a single oak panel.

Its small format, 23,4 x 14,4 cm, and intimate nature signify that this painting was meant for private devotion. Images of devotion of the Virgin nursing the Child - Virgo lactans - were very popular in 15th century Dutch painting. The general model is derived from Byzantine icons (Galaktotrophousa), but the work is mainly inspired by St. Luke painting the Virgin by Rogier van der Weyden.

St. Luke painting the Virgin is one of Rogier van der Weyden's most influential works. Painted circa 1435-1436, either for the Brussels guild of painters, or for their chapel in the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, this work had an enormous impact on the artists of this period and was often copied. Rogier van der Weyden himself painted many half-length versions of the Virgin and Child. The colour range, the depth given to the figures and the work on the delicate elongated hands are a direct reference to the artist's works. The composition is also very close to the Virgin and Child attributed to the Master of the Legend of St. Madeleine, painted circa 1500.

This work, which is both tender and delicate, invites the viewer to contemplate, just as a worshipper would have done in a deeply pious moment.

Provenance :
Private collection, Europe;
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's 8 December 2005, lot 207;
Private collection, United States;
Private collection, Great Britain.

Littérature :
SYFER-D’OLNE, P., et al., Catalogue of Early Netherlandish Painting: Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. The Flemish Primitives IV: Masters with Provisional Names, Brussels, 2006, p. 151, ill. 101.