Christ Taking Leave of His Mother

Artist: Gerard David (Netherlandish, Oudewater ca. 1455–1523 Bruges)

Date: ca. 1500

Medium: Oil on wood

Dimensions: Arched top, 6 1/8 x 4 3/4 in. (15.6 x 12.1 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913

Accession Number: 14.40.636


David also worked as a manuscript illuminator, a skill reflected in this picture’s delicacy of execution. The panel—now in a modern frame—originally formed the right wing of a devotional diptych that would close like a book and thus could easily be used by a traveler during a journey. While its pendant (Bearsted collection, Upton House, Warwickshire) emphasized the loving relationship between the Virgin and Child, this painting depicts the drama of Christ’s departure for Jerusalem and his ultimate sacrifice. Mary, accompanied by the weeping Mary Magdalen and Martha, serves as a model of compassion for the viewer.