Hans Memling: Portraiture, Piety, and a Reunited Altarpiece
Bringing together the scattered elements of Hans Memling’s extraordinary Triptych of Jan Crabbe from New York, Vicenza and Bruges, this book is published to coincide with the first museum exhibition to explore the reconstructed masterpiece in context. Hans Memling was one of the most important, prolific and versatile painters active in 15th-century Bruges, and one of the leading artists of the Early Netherlandish School. Commissioned by Abbot Jan Crabbe, one of Memling’s most signifcant and erudite patrons, the triptych of the Crucifixion–in particular its wings, with their complex and meticulously conceived background landscapes and the convincing realism of the portraits – ostentatiously demonstrate Memling’s skills and ambitions. Completed around 1470, the triptych was dismantled centuries ago and the parts were scattered. Two panels from the altarpiece are among the finest paintings owned by the Morgan Library & Museum, where they have long been on permanent view in museum founder Pierpont Morgan’s study. The exhibition reunites the Morgan panels with the other elements of the famous triptych: the central panel from the Musei Civici in Vicenza, Italy, and the outer wings from the Groeningemuseum in Bruges, Belgium.
Hans Memling: Portraiture, Piety, and a Reunited Altarpiece accompanies the first museum exhibition to explore the reconstructed masterpiece in context. It has long been observed that the donor portraits are the most outstanding aspect of the Crabbe Triptych, especially the portrait of Anna Willemzoon in the left wing, an extraordinary image of old age, and representative of the merging of the sacred and secular realms that is often present in the work of Memling and his contemporaries. Memling was notable as a painter of portraits, and his work in this field revolutionized portrait painting across Europe. To present the artist’s extraordinary ability to capture a likeness, a number of his independent portraits will be examined, including the Morgan’s compelling Man with a Pink.
The volume also highlights links between panel painting and manuscript painting in 15th-century Flemish art, drawing connections, for example, between the grisaille Annunciation on the outer wings of the altarpiece and the grisaille figures that decorate so many manuscripts painted in Bruges during Memling’s lifetime. Underscoring this great artist’s impact, the book also examines Early Netherlandish drawings from the Morgan’s collection, works ranging from the early compositional studies and figure drawings to a group of portrait drawings made in the generation after Memling and under his influence.