Hans Memling (Netherlandish, active by 1465, died 1494)
Oil on wood; (.626, Tommaso) overall 17 3/8 x 13 1/4 in. (44.1 x 33.7 cm), painted surface 16 5/8 x 12 1/2 in. (42.2 x 31.8 cm); (.627, Maria) overall 17 3/8 x 13 3/8 in. (44.1 x 34 cm), painted surface 16 5/8 x 12 5/8 in. (42.2 x 32.1 cm)
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913 (14.40.626–27)
The Portinari were members of the large Italian mercantile community in Bruges, where Tommaso managed a branch of the Medici bank from 1465 to 1480. Representing the Medici at the Burgundian court, Tommaso served as counselor to Duke Philip the Good and as treasurer to Philip's successor, Charles the Bold. Among his duties, he made extensive loans to the dukes of Burgundy that helped fund their military campaigns. Among the masterpieces of Northern Renaissance art, these portraits were probably commissioned upon the couple's marriage in 1470, when Maria was about fourteen and Tommaso about thirty-eight. The panels were originally the wings of a portable triptych flanking an image of the Virgin and Child (now lost), toward which the husband and wife gaze and gesture in devotion. Commissioned from Hans Memling, the portraits reflect the admiration of Italian patrons for Netherlandish art, especially works of such devotional character. Memling's triptych passed into the hands of Tommaso's and Maria's son, Francesco di Tommaso Portinari, who bequeathed it to the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence, which had been founded by family ancestors. It eventually found its way into the New York collection of Benjamin Altman, who bequeathed it to The Metropolitan Museum.