Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Virgin and Child with Saints Catherine of Alexandria and Barbara

Hans Memling (Netherlandish, Seligenstadt, active by 1465–died 1494 Bruges)
early 1480s
Oil on wood
Overall 26 7/8 x 28 7/8 in. (68.3 x 73.3 cm); painted surface 26 3/8 x 28 3/8 in. (67 x 72.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 641
The picture’s harmonious composition was adapted from a large, celebrated altarpiece Hans Memling completed in 1479 for the Sint-Janshospitaal in Bruges. This smaller, more modest version was commissioned by an anonymous donor who kneels at the left. He is shown reciting his rosary as he contemplates Saint Catherine’s mystic marriage to the infant Christ. Saint Barbara, whose attribute—the tower—is behind her, sets a meditative example by reading.

The grape arbor above the Virgin’s throne and canopy was most likely added shortly after Memling’s lifetime, in the early sixteenth century, when the cult of the Eucharist became increasingly popular.
The Artist: For a biography of Hans Memling, See the Catalogue Entry for The Annunciation (17.190.7).

The Painting: The Virgin Mary and Christ Child are seated before a canopied cloth of honor, between two of the favored female saints of Bruges, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and Saint Barbara. The former is identified by the broken wheel and sword of her martyrdom, shown beneath her gown, and by her mystical betrothal to Christ, who slips a ring onto her finger. Barbara sits reading a devotional book before her attribute, the tower, where she was imprisoned by her father, who aimed to restrict her suitors and where she was secretly baptized as a Christian. Completing the group are the two angels playing a portable organ and a harp, thus evoking the divine music of the heavenly realm, and the unidentified donor, who kneels at the left reciting his rosary. The scene takes place within city walls reminiscent of Bruges, where a horse and rider exit through the turreted gate and others cross over the bridge of a small canal.

This composition is based on the centerpiece of one of Hans Memling’s most celebrated monumental triptychs devoted to Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist that was made for the high altar of the chapel in Sint-Janshospital in Bruges, where it was dedicated in 1479 (see Additional Images, fig. 1). The Met’s painting is a far smaller, more modest version of the prototype that eliminates the two Saints John and the splendid setting of a columned portico.

Close visual scrutiny of the grape arbor above the Virgin’s throne and canopy indicates that it was not originally part of Memling’s painting.[1] The grape leaves are painted with a different mixture of greens and with less meticulously blended brushstrokes than is typical of Memling’s technique elsewhere in the foliage of the painting, and there is no underdrawing for this feature. An exact copy of the Met painting in the Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice, dating from the sixteenth century, supports the notion that the grape arbor was added to Memling’s painting perhaps some thirty years or more after its completion.

This intentional alteration to the painting must have been made at the request of a subsequent owner in order to satisfy particular devotional requirements. Indeed, the grape arbor augments the meaning of the painting, introducing a Eucharistic symbol that alludes to the blood of Christ, shed for the salvation of mankind through his Crucifixion. In addition, there is the analogy of Mary as the vine and Christ as the grape reiterated in medieval poetry and sermons.[2] For example, Nicholas of Cusa (1400–1464) referred to the Virgin thus in one of his sermons: “From the nature of her flesh was the wine grape cluster brought forth, from which the wine was pressed, in which God and men rejoiced.”[3] Just as the Virgin gives physical nourishment to the Christ Child, he, in turn, provides spiritual nourishment to mankind, a notion underscored by the Child’s direct address of the viewer.

The Attribution: Since Max J. Friedländer first published this painting, its attribution to Memling has gone uncontested.[4] It dates from the early 1480s, and represents Memling’s mature phase when he had developed his idealized female types with the demure, sweet countenances so admired by his clientele.[5] A new sense of symmetry and balance in the composition has been established here and the painting portrays a world in perfect harmony. The spontaneous and free character of the dry-medium sketch of the underdrawing (see Technical Notes and Additional Images, fig. 4) belies the smooth, pristine surface of Memling’s painting. Although the Sint-Janshospital altarpiece was the model for The Met’s smaller version, there is no hint of a mechanical transfer from any predetermined model for the latter. Memling must have relied on workshop drawings of the figures and drapery studies that he copied by eye and then freely modified in the underdrawing and painted layers to reach the desired final design. The textile pattern for the cloth of honor behind the Virgin is shared with three other Memling paintings of around the same date: Virgin and Child with Saints and Angels (Donne Triptych) of 1478, and the Virgin and Child with an Angel, Saint George, and an Unidentified Donor of about 1480 (both in the National Gallery, London); and the Virgin and Child Enthroned with two Angels of about 1489–90 (National Gallery of Art, Washington), all demonstrating Memling’s efficient use of workshop patterns.[16]

[Maryan W. Ainsworth 2017]

[1] See Ainsworth 2005 and Technical Notes.
[2] James Mundy, "Gerard David’s 'Rest on the Flight into Egypt': Further Additions to Grape Symbolism,” Simiolus 12, no. 4 (1981–82), pp. 211–22, especially p. 216.
[3] Ibid., p. 216, as quoted in K. Smits, De iconographie van de Nederlandse primitieven, Amsterdam 1933, p. 154 and no. 4. For further on grape symbolism, see E. de Jongh, “Grape Symbolism in Paintings of the 16th and 17th Centuries,” Simiolus 7, no. 4 (1974), pp. 166–91.
[4] See Friedländer 1900; see also De Vos 1994 and Lane 2009.
[5] See Technical Notes for the corroborating dendrochronology of the panels by Peter Klein.
[6] See Monnas 2008.
Support: The support is constructed of three oak boards, with the grain oriented horizontally. Dendrochronological analysis indicated an earliest possible creation date of 1464, with a more plausible date of 1470 upwards.[1] The wood originated in the Baltic/Polish region. The panel has been thinned to 3/8 in. (0.4 cm), adhered to a secondary wood support of an equal thickness and cradled.

Preparation: The panel was prepared with a white ground. The presence of unpainted margins and a partial barbe along all edges indicated that the panel was in an engaged frame when the white ground was applied. Examination with infrared reflectography revealed an extensive underdrawing, executed with what appears to be a dry medium[2] (see Additional Images, fig. 4). Most figures and major elements in the composition were laid out with loose, sketchy lines, while special attention was given to the folds of the drapery, with energetic strokes used to indicate shadow. The black robe of the donor blocks much of the infrared light, but this figure was seemingly underdrawn in a similar fashion. The eyes of the donor and of the angel at right were indicated by the circular eye sockets characteristic of Memling’s underdrawings (see The Annunciation, 17.190.7). The architecture in the background and the horizon line at left were sketched in with very loose lines.

Many changes were made between the underdrawing and the painting stages. The most significant variation in the underdrawing lies in Saint Catherine’s head. Her right eye was underdrawn lower, gazing towards the top of Christ’s head, while her left eye was underdrawn with the gaze directed towards a slightly lower point; the two underdrawn eyes are slightly at odds with each other. Several lines at the nape of her neck also revealed the artist searching for the correct tilt of the head. In the painting Memling modified Catherine’s gaze to be more truly focused on Christ as he places the ring on her finger. These adjustments underscore the importance of this spatial relationship to Memling. Both angels were also repositioned from the underdrawing: the angel on the left was painted facing inwards toward the central group rather than looking outwards, as in the underdrawing, and the angel on the right was painted slightly to the right of the underdrawn position, with large diagonal lines that were seemingly an initial idea for much larger wings.

In general, the underdrawn contour lines were not precisely followed in the painting and slight adjustments were made to almost all of the lines, which is not surprising considering the summary nature of the underdrawing. No underdrawing was detected beneath the grape arbor.

Paint Layers: The handling of the paint is very fine. The fleshtones were painted with such delicate glazes that the hand of the artist is all but invisible. Memling has gone to great lengths to suppress any trace of brushmarks, yet, in select areas of drapery, painted hatches lend a graphic quality to the otherwise smooth and polished painting. The red folds of the Virgin’s robe, modeled with glazes of what appears to be a red lake, are further shaded with hatches of the same red, while the shading of Saint Barbara’s green dress is similarly reinforced with hatches of a translucent green, likely a copper-containing green.

The gold-threaded brocade of the robes of the angel at right, Saint Catherine’s dress, and the cloth of honor behind the Virgin were all painted with remarkable economy. Memling achieved the effect of shimmering folds of gold and black or gold and red brocade by underpainting the gold regions with a dark ochre-colored paint and then selectively picking out the gold threads with fine lines of pale yellow paint, only where the light would strike the high points of the folds (see Additional Images, fig. 2). Memling understood that it was not necessary to continue the pattern of the gold threads into the shadows. But in depictions of gold brocade in other paintings, for example in The Met's Annunciation of about 1465–70 (17.190.7) and The Virgin and Child with a Large Family and Saints James and Dominic of 1488 (Musée du Louvre, Paris; RF 215)—the so-called Jacob Floreins altarpiece—Memling has not employed this shorthand. In both he has used the same light oblique hatches all inclined from right to left, but has painstakingly modulated the threads with darker yellow paint and continued the pattern into the shadows (see Additional Images, fig. 3). In the The Met's version, as in the larger triptych of 1479 on which it was based, the Saint John Altarpiece (Sint-Janshospitaal, Memlingmuseum, Bruges; inv. O.SJ175.1; see Additional Images, fig. 1), Memling has simplified his approach. This simplification is notable as it surely saved time on a composition he repeated, without compromising the sense of luxury of the fabric.

Elemental mapping by macro X-ray fluorescence revealed the presence of potassium with traces of copper in the blue robe of the angel to the left of the Virgin. The presence of potassium without substantial copper suggests the use of ultramarine blue to depict the garment, while darker blue shadows in the robe and decorations on the trim are copper-rich, suggesting the use of azurite for these details. Further tests would be required to identify the pigments. In contrast, study and analysis of the Annunciation (17.190.7) found that Memling underpainted the blue mantle of the Virgin with azurite, saving the more expensive ultramarine for the final glaze.[3]

The grape arbor was a very early addition to the composition. As described by Maryan Ainsworth in 2005, the grape leaves were painted using broader strokes and a more naturalistic approach compared to the stylized foliage elsewhere in the painting.[4] This addition was not underdrawn, but there are incisions in the original paint beneath the latticework, indicating the main lines were planned out by incising into the paint of the sky before the structure was painted. As part of this very early intervention, the red canopy of the throne was also adjusted from an originally rectangular canopy, as seen in other paintings of the time, to the curved canopy evident now. Not only is the curved form unusual in paintings by Memling and his contemporaries, the technical evidence also points to it being a later addition. Most conspicuously, the red of the upper canopy has an orange cast, as opposed to the deep reds employed elsewhere in the composition. This red paint was applied quite thickly, with broad and slightly impasted strokes that appear radio-opaque in the X-radiograph, indicating a heavy application of lead white-containing paint there. The artist responsible for the addition used thick, opaque paint mixtures there in order to efface Memling’s original rectangular form and to block in the new shape of the canopy. He then created the semi-circular sliver of sky above the curved canopy by painting the light blue crescent atop the red of the original canopy. Several grape leaves were then added to give the impression that the arch of the arbor continued above the picture plane. Finally, in order to integrate the entire addition with the original, this artist later repainted the gold fringe and overpainted part of the uppermost portion of the gold-brocaded cloth of honor.

In general the painting is in very good condition. There is some fading of a red lake in the left angel’s pale blue robe. On the other hand, the deep red of the Virgin’s robe, and Catherine’s red sleeves, also painted with red lakes, but applied more thickly and atop a crimson red underlayer, retains its rich hue. The green of Barbara’s dress has lost its upper glazes, revealing a strident yellow-green underpaint. There are losses to the paint along both joins in the wood support. The donor’s black robe has several damages, which have been retouched.

[Sophie Scully 2017]

[1] Wood identification and dendrochronological analysis completed by Dr. Peter Klein, Universität Hamburg, 13 May 1997. The report can be found in the files of the Department of Paintings Conservation. The youngest heartwood ring was formed out in the year 1453. Regarding the sapwood statistic of Eastern Europe an earliest felling date can be derived for the year 1462, more plausible is a felling date between 1466..1468…1472 + x. With a minimum of 2 years for seasoning an earliest creation of the painting is possible from 1464 upwards. Under the assumption of a median of 15 sapwood rings and 2 years for seasoning, as probably usual in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, a creation is plausible from 1470 upwards.
[2] Infrared reflectography completed with a Merlin Indigo InGaAs near-infrared camera with a StingRay macro lens customized for the wavelengths covered by the camera, 0.9 to 1.7 microns, May 2015.
[3] Elemental mapping by macro X-ray fluorescence carried out by Dr. Silvia A. Centeno, Research Scientist, and Dr. Louisa Smieska, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow, Department of Scientific Research. Complete report can be found in the departmental files.
[4] See Ainsworth 2005, p. 55.
?Dr. John Taylor, Ashbourne, Derbyshire (b. 1711–d. 1788); ?Sir Joshua Reynolds, London (b. 1723–d. 1792; "given to Mrs. Davenport"); Mrs. Davenport, 2 Church Row, Hampstead, London (1884); her descendant, Mr. Davenport (sold to Bodley); G. F. Bodley, London (until 1900; sold to Colnaghi); [Colnaghi, Paris, 1900–1901; sold to Goldschmidt]; Léopold Goldschmidt, Paris (1901–d. 1904); his daughter, Giberte de Sartiges, Comtesse de Sartiges, Château Louveciennes, Seine–et–Oise (1904–11; sold to Kleinberger); [Kleinberger, Paris and New York, 1911; sold for $200,000 to Altman]; Benjamin Altman, New York (1911–d. 1913)
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January–March 1884, no. 285 (as "School of Memling," lent by Mrs. Davenport).

London. New Gallery. "Exhibition of Pictures by Masters of the Flemish and British Schools," 1899–1900, no. 21 (as by Hans Memling, lent by G. F. Bodley, Esq., A.R.A.).

Bruges. Palais du Gouvernement. "Exposition des primitifs flamands et d'art ancien," June 15–September 15, 1902, no. 63 (as by Hans Memling, lent by M. Goldschmidt, Paris).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 99.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 22, 1998–February 21, 1999, no. 11.


Max J. Friedländer. "Die Leihausstellung der New Gallery in London, Januar–März 1900." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 23 (1900), pp. 248–49, mentions this painting as a hitherto unpublished Memling, observing that the composition was already known to him from an early precise copy in the Accademia in Venice; recognizes that the composition is very close to that of the altarpiece in Bruges [the Saint John Altarpiece, dated 1479; Memlingmuseum, Sint–Janshospitaal]; thinks that both works date from the same period but finds our picture less fresh and fine than the one in Bruges.

W. H. J. Weale. Hans Memling. London, 1901, pp. 60–61, 100, ill., considers it an early work by Memling, probably slightly later than the Virgin with Saint George and a Donor in the National Gallery, London, which he places about 1475; compares it with the central panel of the Saint John altarpiece in Bruges; notes that it was "purchased on the continent by Sir Joshua Reynolds, who gave it to Mrs. Davenport" and that it was "purchased from a descendant of that lady by Mr. Bodley".

Henri Hymans. "L'exposition des primitifs flamands à Bruges (1er article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 28 (August 1902), p. 55, calls it a smaller repetition by Memling of the Bruges altarpiece, with changes that improve the composition.

Georges H. de Loo Palais du Gouvernement, Bruges. Exposition de tableaux flamands des XIVe, XVe et XVIe siècles: catalogue critique précédé d'une introduction sur l'identité de certains maîtres anonymes. Ghent, 1902, p. 16, no. 63.

W. H. James Weale. Exposition des primitifs flamands et d'art ancien, Bruges. Première section: tableaux. Catalogue. Exh. cat., Palais du Gouvernement. Bruges, 1902, pp. XXII, 28, no. 63, as by Hans Memling, but notes that all attributions given in the catalogue are those provided by the owners; dates it probably 1475–80 in the introduction, and about 1480 in the catalogue.

W. H. James Weale. "The Early Painters of the Netherlands as Illustrated by the Bruges Exhibition of 1902, Article III." Burlington Magazine 1 (April 1903), p. 335.

Max J. Friedländer. "Die Brügger Leihausstellung von 1902." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 26 (1903), p. 81, no. 63, dates it about 1480 on the basis of style.

Karl Voll. Die altniederländische Malerei von Jan van Eyck bis Memling. Leipzig, 1906, p. 225, mentions it as a pretty work, but not finely executed; notes that opinion regarding its authenticity is divided.

[Hippolyte] Fierens-Gevaert. La peinture en Belgique: Les primitifs flamands. Vol. 2, Brussels, 1909, pp. 132–33, as by Memling; dates it about 1480.

Karl Voll. Memling: Des Meisters Gemälde. Stuttgart, 1909, pp. 138, 174, ill., calls it a school work, too close to the larger and superior work in Bruges to be considered an authentic work by Memling.

Georges Hulin de Loo. Letter to Duveen. December 26, 1909, considers it an autograph work by Memling, earlier than the Bruges picture [Saint John Altarpiece, dated 1479]; notes that it was retouched by D. Hauser [in Berlin (see Ref. Friedländer, 1916)] at some point after 1900.

Max J. Friedländer. Letter to Francis Kleinberger. January 26, 1910, as without doubt by Memling.

William Bode. "More Spurious Pictures Abroad Than in America." New York Times (December 31, 1911), p. SM4.

Max J. Friedländer. "The Altman Memlings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Art in America 4, no. 4 (1916), pp. 188–89, 193–94, ill., dates it about 1480; notes that the firm of dealers [Colnaghi] who bought it from Bodley in 1900 had it cleaned in Berlin [presumably by D. Hauser, as reported in the 1909 letter from Hulin de Loo (see Refs.)], before selling it to Goldschmidt in Paris [in 1901].

Martin Conway. The Van Eycks and Their Followers. London, 1921, p. 231.

Thomas H. Benton. "Mechanics of Form, Organization in Painting." Arts 11 (March 1927), pp. 147–48, ill., analyzes its composition.

Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 6, Memling und Gerard David. Berlin, 1928, p. 128, no. 65, notes that it has been slightly overcleaned.

Handbook of the Benjamin Altman Collection. 2nd ed. New York, 1928, pp. 45–47, no. 19, ill.

H[ans]. V[ollmer]. in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 24, Leipzig, 1930, p. 375.

Édouard Michel. L'École flamande du XVe siècle au Musée du Louvre. Brussels, 1944, p. 50, mentions it in relation to a Memling diptych with this subject on its left wing (Louvre, Paris, diptych of Jean Cellier) and observes that in unpublished remarks of 1924 Hulin de Loo places the Louvre panel before our example and the Bruges altarpiece.

Walter R. M. Lamb [Royal Academy of Arts]. Letter to Miss. E. Carson [later Elizabeth E. Gardner]. February 21, 1944, provides an adress for the Mrs. Davenport who lent the present work to the Winter Exhibition of 1884 and notes that besides the description printed in the catalogue, the entry form states that the picture "formed part of the collection of Dr. Taylor of Ashbourne, which was made under the direction of Hogarth. Bought at Dr. Taylor's sale. Catalogued 'Van Eyck'" [none of which can be verified] .

Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 68–70, ill.

Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1952, pp. 226–27, no. 99, colorpl. 99.

Édouard Michel. Catalogue raisonné des peintures du moyen-age, de la renaissance et des temps modernes: Peintures flamandes du XVe et du XVIe siècle. Paris, 1953, p. 200, dates the Louvre diptych including this subject about 1475, or before the 1479 example in Bruges, and places our painting about 1480.

Sandra Moschini Marconi. Galerie dell'accademia di Venezia: opere d'arte dei secoli XIV e XV. Rome, 1955, p. 184.

Erik Larsen. Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York. Utrecht, 1960, pp. 73–74, 119, fig. 20, attributes it to Memling and workshop.

A. P. de Mirimonde. "Les anges musiciens chez Memlinc." Jaarboek Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen (1962–63), pp. 21, 23, 54, ill.

Giorgio T. Faggin. L'opera completa di Memling. Milan, 1969, p. 107, no. 82, ill., as Memling.

Calvin Tomkins. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1970, p. 171 [rev., enl. ed., 1989].

Max J. Friedländer et al. Early Netherlandish Painting. Vol. 6, Hans Memlinc and Gerard David. New York, 1971, part 1, p. 54, no. 65, pl. 108.

K. B. McFarlane with the assistance of G. L. Harris. Hans Memling. Ed. Edgar Wind. Oxford, 1971, p. 31 n. 15.

Lorne Campbell. "K.B. McFarlane, Hans Memling, 1971." Apollo 96 (December 1972), p. 564.

Elisabeth Heller. Das altniederländische Stifterbild. PhD diss., Universität München. Munich, 1976, p. 215, no. 249.

Przemyslaw Trzeciak. Hans Memling. Berlin, 1977, unpaginated, no. 11, considers questionable Memling's authorship of the present work and the Louvre diptych.

Barbara G. Lane. Hans Memling: Werkverzeichnis. Frankfurt, 1980, p. 30, no. 42, ill., dates it about 1479–80.

Lorne Campbell. Unpublished notes. 1981, ascribes it to Memling about 1480, and suggests that it was designed for a private setting; calls it a reduced and simplified repetition of the central panel of the Bruges altarpiece.

Maximiliaan P. J. Martens Hans J. van Miegroet. "Nieuwe inzichten omtrent de omstreden du cellier–dyptiek, toegeschreven aan Hans Memling." Gentse bijdragen tot de kunstgeschiedenis 26 (1981–84), pp. 71–73, ill., compare our picture to Saint John Altarpiece in Bruges and the Cellier Diptych in Paris, observing that in all three works Saint Catherine, the Virgin and Saint Barbara are placed in the points of a triangle, a static compositional structure typical of the artist.

Grizelda Grimond [Librarian, Colnaghi, London]. Letter to Mary Sprinson. 1981, notes that in the Colnaghi stock book for 1900–1901 our picture (stock no. 1135) is recorded as purchased in 1900 from G. F. Bodley; quotes a note in the margin: "From Mr. Davenport's Collection, a descendant of Mrs. Davenport who had it from Sir Joshua Reynolds".

Guy Bauman. "Early Flemish Portraits, 1425–1525." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 43 (Spring 1986), pp. 24–25, 30, ill. (color), comments on Memling's predilection for symmetry; notes that the grape bower is "an addition, possibly by another artist, painted over the landscape background".

Introduction by James Snyder in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Renaissance in the North. New York, 1987, pp. 11, 34–35, ill. (color).

Francis Broun. "Sir Joshua Reynolds' Collection of Paintings." PhD diss., Princeton University, 1987, vol. 2, p. 301, observes that this picture has been associated with one included in Sir Joshua Reynold's 1795 sale at Christie's as a "very fine" Perugino, The Marriage of Saint Catherine (part II, no. 26, bought in), and later included in his 1798 sale at Phillips as a "very fine" Dürer (part I, no. 16, to Woodburn for 3 guineas); notes that there appears to be no supporting evidence for this connection.

Maryan W. Ainsworth. "Northern Renaissance Drawings and Underdrawings: A Proposed Method of Study." Master Drawings 27 (Spring 1989), p. 6 n. 5, notes that "Memling's characteristically free sketch for the figures and landscape [in the underdrawing of this picture] ... could hardly have been anticipated judging by the meticulously rendered surface in paint".

Introduction by Walter A. Liedtke in Flemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp, 1992, pp. 24, 353, no. 350, ill.

Dirk De Vos. Hans Memling: The Complete Works. Ghent, 1994, pp. 41, 65–66, 154, 166–67, 234, 379–80, no. 35, ill. (color and infrared reflectogram), dates it after 1479; calls it a free-hand reduced version of the central panel of the Saint John Altarpiece in Bruges and notes that the artist evidently based our picture and the Donne Altarpiece (National Gallery, London) on preparatory drawings made for the Bruges work; explains the spontaneous character of the underdrawing in our painting as the result of free copying of these "modelli"; observes that the probable felling date for our panel is about 1468, but finds it "difficult to say whether this work was executed shortly after the St John Altarpiece, in around 1480, . . . or after a longer period had elapsed"; believes the grape arbor motif was added shortly after Memling's time, since it is already seen in a weak copy of our painting in the Accademia, Venice; notes that a similar motif appears in the oeuvre of the Master of the Legend of Saint Lucy (see "Virgin inter Virgines", Detroit Institute of Arts); identifies the donor as a guild official portrayed in uniform, and interprets the motif embroidered on his costume at hip-level as the coat of arms of his guild or confraternity; observes that Joshua Reynolds was in Bruges in 1781 and suggests that he may have acquired our picture at this time.

Maryan W. Ainsworth. "Hans Memling as a Draughtsman." Hans Memling: Essays. Ed. Dirk De Vos. Ghent, 1994, pp. 82–84, ill. (including x-radiograph and infrared reflectograms), remarks that such free sketching and direct underdrawing in black chalk alone occur in certain paintings of Memling around 1479–80; compares the spontaneous and remarkably direct underdrawing in our painting and its apparent model, the Saint John Altarpiece in Bruges, and concludes that there is "no hint of a mechanical transfer from any predetermined model"; suggests that "Memling relied on detailed workshop drawings of figures and drapery studies from which he could copy by eye both for the rough sketch and for the finished painted details"; adds that the heads of the two angels were first drawn and painted as in the Bruges version and then changed from a profile to a three-quarter view, noting that this characterizes Memling's working method, his "continual revision of the forms up into the final painted layers".

Dirk De Vos. Hans Memling: Catalogue. Exh. cat., Groeninge Museum, Bruges. Ghent, 1994, p. 245, calls the version in the Venice Accademia an exact but weak copy of our painting, tentatively placing it in the 16th century.

Mary Sprinson de Jesús in From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Maryan W. Ainsworth and Keith Christiansen. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1998, pp. vii, 35, 66, 74, 114, 116–17, 143, 220, 278, no. 11, ill. (color), places it in the early 1480s, commenting on early signs of Memling's "classic phase": the oval facial type of the female figures, wider across the eyes and narrowing at the chin, that "tends to reflect a state of gentle, beatific acceptance"; the carefully constructed composition, in pursuit of the greatest effect of balance and harmony; and the bright, clear light and colors.

Lorne Campbell. National Gallery Catalogues: The Fifteenth Century Netherlandish Schools. London, 1998, p. 384.

Michael Rohlmann. "Flanders and Italy, Flanders and Florence. Early Netherlandish Painting in Italy and its Particular Influence on Florentine Art: An Overview." Italy and the Low Countries—Artistic Relations: The Fifteenth Century. Florence, 1999, p. 57 n. 2, includes it in a list of Flemish works that came from Italy, "of which the precise origins are unknown".

Maryan W. Ainsworth. "Commentary: An Integrated Approach." Early Netherlandish Painting at the Crossroads: A Critical Look at Current Methodologies. Ed. Maryan W. Ainsworth. New York, 2001, p. 115, observes that the later addition of the grape arbor "signals the importance in the early sixteenth century of the cult of the Eucharist".

Maryan W. Ainsworth. Recent Developments in the Technical Examination of Early Netherlandish Painting: Methodology, Limitations & Perspectives. Ed. Molly Faries and Ron Spronk. Cambridge, Mass., 2003, p. 142.

Lorne Campbell in Memling's Portraits. Ed. Till-Holger Borchert. Exh. cat., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. Ghent, 2005, p. 55, claims the donor is not praying but "telling" his beads.

Peter Klein in Memling's Portraits. Ed. Till-Holger Borchert. Exh. cat., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. Ghent, 2005, p. 181, provides a tabulated dendrochronological analysis of panels attributed to Hans Memling.

Till-Holger Borchert. "Collecting Early Netherlandish Paintings in Europe and the United States." Early Netherlandish Paintings: Rediscovery, Reception and Research. Ed. Bernhard Ridderbos et al. English ed. Amsterdam, 2005, p. 212 [Dutch ed., "'Om iets te weten van de oude meesters'. De Vlaamse Primitieven—herontdekking, waardering en onderzoek," Nijmegen, 1995].

Maryan W. Ainsworth. "Intentional Alterations of Early Netherlandish Paintings." Metropolitan Museum Journal 40 (2005), pp. 55–56, figs. 8–10, colorpls. 4–5 (overall and details).

Pascale Syfer-d'Olne et al. The Flemish Privitives IV: Catalogue of Early Netherlandish Painting in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. Vol. 4, Masters with Provisional Names. Brussels, 2006, p. 359 n. 22.

Jenny Graham. Inventing Van Eyck: The Remaking of an Artist for the Modern Age. Oxford, 2007, p. 44, fig. 13.

Lisa Monnas. Merchants, Princes and Painters: Silk Fabrics in Italian and Northern Paintings, 1300–1550. New Haven, 2008, pp. 137, 354 nn. 65, 67.

Barbara G. Lane. Hans Memling: Master Painter in Fifteenth-Century Bruges. London, 2009, pp. 48, 51, 53, 60 n. 25, p. 111 n. 20, pp. 117, 292–93, no. 47, fig. 39.

Christopher S. Wood. "The Votive Scenario." Res no. 59/60 (Spring–Autumn 2011), pp. 224–25, fig. 10.

Related Objects

The Annunciation

Artist: Hans Memling (Netherlandish, Seligenstadt, active by 1465–died 1494 Bruges) Date: ca. 1465–70 Medium: Oil on wood Accession: 17.190.7 On view in:Gallery 640

Portrait of a Young Man

Artist: Hans Memling (Netherlandish, Seligenstadt, active by 1465–died 1494 Bruges) Date: ca. 1472–75 Medium: Oil on oak panel Accession: 1975.1.112 On view in:Gallery 953

Virgin and Child

Artist: Follower of Hans Memling (Netherlandish, Seligenstadt, active by 1465–died 1494 Bruges) Date: ca. 1487 Medium: Oil on oak panel Accession: 1975.1.111 On view in:Gallery 953

The Annunciation

Artist: Hans Memling (Netherlandish, Seligenstadt, active by 1465–died 1494 Bruges) Date: 1480–89 Medium: Oil on panel, transferred to canvas Accession: 1975.1.113 On view in:Gallery 953

Roundel with the Adoration of the Magi

Artist: After Hans Memling (Netherlandish, Seligenstadt, active by 1465–died 1494 Bruges) Date: ca. 1500 Medium: Colorless glass, vitreous paint and silver stain Accession: 1983.235 On view in:Gallery 10