Hans Memling (circle of) - inv. 1047

Circle of Hans Memling

The Virgin and Child
1490 c.
tempera on panel  
30,5 x 22,6 cm
1879 bequest Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli
Inv. 1047

Foreign Artist Room
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This Virgin and Child is a typical devotional image, widespread in the Flemish area during the last quarter of the fifteenth century. Within a niche, Mary is shown half figure behind a windowsill supporting Jesus wrapped in a white cloth and sitting on a finely embroidered cushion. Elegantly clothed, the Virgin’s head is inclined slightly as she looks intimately and gently at the Christ Child. She is holding out a small white carnation to him, a traditional symbol of betrothal, which probably alludes in this case to the mystic marriage of Mary with Christ.

The figure typology and pictorial style recall Hans Memling, a painter who belonged to the second generation of Dutch fifteenth-century painters. He was probably a pupil of Rogier van der Weyden in Brussels and was immediately active in Bruges, where he worked almost exclusively for the rich middle class, producing altar paintings, portraits and devotional pictures.
However, a certain rigidity in the design, awkwardness in the shading of the fleshy areas and in the drapery, and the Child’s rather wooden and uncoordinated movements would suggest one of his followers rather than the Flemish master himself. In works by Memling that can be identified as a source of inspiration for this painting, Mary, a half figure behind a windowsill, supports Jesus seated on a cushion. The domestic surroundings and background landscape found in these works have given way, in this painting, to an older-style gold background.