Memling's Donne Triptych

Memling's Donne Triptych
Memling's Donne Triptych

AlthoughHans Memling(– 1494) was an artist of German origin, he eventually became the most prestigious painter in the city ofBrugesinBelgium. There he created a large workshop from which works were sent to many places in Northern Europe, and some even traveled to lands and commissioners in Italy.


Triptych Donne de Memling

In fact, his way of painting the landscapes in the background was especially appreciated throughout the continent. Landscapes that are often misty and always with enormous detail, typical of the thoroughness that had traditionally existed in Flemish painting.

A good example of such landscaping can be seen in this Donne Triptych that he composed for a Wales nobleman, John Donne, hence the name of the panels that today have the National Gallery in London.

In the painting, as was usual at the time, the commissioners themselves are integrated. And while it was more common to include them in lateral scenes, as we can see in the Portinari Triptych of his contemporary Hugo van der Goes, in the case of Memling he has placed John Donne sitting on his knees next to the Virgin, on the central table.

In fact, the full title of the work is The Virgin and Child with Saints and Donors. And it is that Mary is placed in the center of it and with her colorful red mantle she becomes theperfect throne for the Child Jesus, who turns to bless the nobleman and his family, since to the left of the Virgin are both Donne's wife and daughter. The scene is completed with two saints who are standing. Santa Catalina on the right and Santa Bárbara on the left. In addition to two figures of kneeling angels, playing music to entertain Jesus, who does not stop being a child who plays, since he looks like he is crumpling the pages of the book that Mary is reading.

While on the two side panels there are two other saints, both with the commissioner's name. They are John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist. By the way, these two smaller and more mobile panels, when closed, show San Cristóbal and San Antonio Abad, but painted with the grisaille technique, to imitate the forms of a stone relief.

However, if all these characters are painted with an enormous quality, it is also worth looking at the setting and the landscapes that can be seen in the background, through windows. For example, you can see a mill, with the miller loading sacks of flour on a donkey. Even that detail reaches the mastery of Memling. Which also expanded when it came to painting the Donnes, who paid him. That is why his jewelry or his aristocratic insignia can be perfectly identified

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