Artist: Master of the Saint Ursula Legend (Netherlandish, active late 15th century)
Medium: Oil on wood
Dimensions: Arched top, 22 1/8 x 13 1/2 in. (56.2 x 34.3 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number: 17.190.16
Devotional images of the breastfeeding Virgin, the Virgo lactans, became extremely popular in fifteenth-century painting, particularly in Bruges, where the Sint-Donaaskerk housed relics of Mary’s hair and milk. While the motif generally derives from a Byzantine icon type (galaktotrophousa), the Virgin and Child in this picture were quoted from Rogier van der Weyden’s Saint Luke Drawing the Virgin (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). The seemingly archaic trompe l'oeil golden niche returns the image to its status as an icon.
The frame is original; hinge holes (now plugged) indicate that the panel was formerly the central element of a triptych.