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Petrus Christus (c ), Exeter Madonna, c ½ X 5 ½”

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1 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Exeter Madonna, c. 1444. 7 ½ X 5 ½”
Petrus Christus (c ), Exeter Madonna, c ½ X 5 ½”. Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen On July 6, 1444, Petrus Christus went to the burghers' lodge in Bruges to fulfill the formalities needed to acquire citizenship in this Flemish center of international commerce. A clerk noted in the registers that "Pieter Christus, son of Pieter, born in Baerle, purchased his citizenship in order to become a painter." The protectionist regulations of the local painters' guild were very strict: in order to be allowed to practice his profession in Bruges, Christus had to become a member of this organization, for which citizenship was required. It is not known how old Christus was when he settled in Bruges; nor is it known where he was trained or whether he spent all of his formative years in his hometown in the duchy of Brabant. Within a short time, Christus secured several important commissions and rose to prominence as Bruges' leading painter of the mid-fifteenth century, after the death of Jan van Eyck in 1441, and before Hans Memling arrived, around 1465. Christus arrived in a city that was thriving economically after years of political upheaval between 1436 and After a harshly punished rebellion, Bruges returned to the good graces and favor of its sovereign, Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy (r. 1419–67). During Christus's lifetime, Bruges was a favorite residence of the Burgundian dukes, who often made triumphal entrances into the city, accompanied by distinguished guests. Along with the regular presence of the ducal court, wealthy local businessmen and foreign merchants and bankers comprised a potential clientele that drew artists such as Christus to the city. Mediterranean nations played an especially prominent role in Bruges' commerce; significantly, nearly half of Christus's small oeuvre was commissioned by Italians, has an Italian or Spanish provenance, or was early on known to southern artists. When Christus's oeuvre was rediscovered in the nineteenth century, it was rather pejoratively assessed as eclectic and largely derivative of Jan van Eyck. More recent scholarship, while acknowledging van Eyck's influence, has focused on Christus's inventive approach to accommodating the wishes of his patrons in Bruges, as the artist adjusted his style to suit their tastes. His meticulous technique is related to that of manuscript illumination; he was most assured working on a diminutive scale, but became increasingly adept at volumetric description in larger works. Some time between 1458 and 1463, Christus and his wife Gaudicine joined the honorable Bruges Confraternity of the Dry Tree, which numbered all the Burgundian dukes and well-known aristocratic and upper-class families among its members. In the late 1460s, Christus joined the similarly prestigious Confraternity of Our Lady of the Snow. Certainly indicative of his elevated status in Bruges society, this also represented an astute entrepreneurial move on Christus's part, placing him in the path of important commissions. One of these came in 1463, when Christus and another master painter were paid to supervise the construction of two gigantic props used for tableaux vivants during Philip the Good's triumphal entry into the city. Christus died in 1475/76.

2 Jan van Eyck (c ), Madonna and Child with Donor and Saints, c /8 X 24 1/8”. Frick Collection Petrus Christus (c ), Exeter Madonna, c ½ X 5 ½”. Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen The Exeter Madonna has often been described as a creative copy of Van Eyck’s larger Madonna and Child with Saints and a Carthusian Monk in the Frick Collection. The Virgin, holding the Child, stands in majesty on an Oriental carpet, enframed by a sumptuous brocade canopy and hanging inscribed AVE GRA[TIA] PLE[N]A (Hail [Mary] full of grace). She is attended by St. Barbara, with her attribute of the tower in which she was imprisoned rising behind her, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, who gave up her crown to become a nun, and a kneeling Carthusian monk. As yet no clear explanation has been found for the presence of the two saints. Elizabeth may have been included because she was the patron saint of Isabella of Portugal, the Duchess of Burgundy, who apparently made donations to Carthusian monasteries throughout the Netherlands and Switzerland. Barbara was protectress against sudden death and, among other roles, patron saint of soldiers, which may explain the statue of Mars visible in a window of her tower. She appears here as sponsor for the donor, and it is possible that both saints had some particular association with his monastery or with his early membership in the Teutonic Order, a religious foundation with military ties. The Carthusian monk has been identified as Jan Vos (d. 1462), Prior of the Charterhouse of Genadedal — or Val-de-Grâce — near Bruges, and a well-known figure in fifteenth-century monastic life in the Netherlands. He held various important posts in Carthusian houses before his appointment to Genadedal in 1441, the year of Jan van Eyck’s death. Documents relate that the Frick painting was ordered as a “pious memorial of Dom Jan Vos, Prior of the Monastery,” and that it was dedicated on September 3, Most scholars consider this one of van Eyck’s last paintings, begun by him in 1441 but completed after his death. The kneeling donor is certainly the same Carthusian in each panel, posed in identical postures with the draperies of his white habit repeating the same patterns. He is introduced by St. Barbara in each case and the setting of both is a high chamber of a loggia overlooking a detailed far-distant, imaginary landscape. But Christus’ own more simplified and generalized approach is clearly visible in his harder line, in his tendency toward doll-like features and pudgy hands, and in his preference for setting his figures into a greater space than Jan would have employed. There inevitably is a loss of monumentality and a dispersal of concentration, for both interior and exterior are equally stressed. The architectural frame has become a loggia, within which the viewer experiences a space that is neither purely internal nor external.

3 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Head of Christ, c. 1445
Petrus Christus (c ), Head of Christ, c Oil on parchment laid down on wood. 5 ¾ X 4 1/8”. MET Copy after van Eyck, Head of Christ, X 10 ½”. Bruges, Groeningemuseum An early work of about 1445, the Head of Christ illustrates Christus's ability to assimilate features from an earlier model while altering others, thus creating a new kind of image. Based on a lost picture of the Holy Face by van Eyck, this small painting was created for private use and should be understood in the context of the rise of devotional piety—spurred by mystical movements such as the Devotio Moderna— that occurred in the Netherlands during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This development led to the production of images whose specific purpose was to stimulate emotional and compassionate responses by evoking the sympathy of the viewer. The Christus Head of Christ is similar to its Eyckian forerunner in that the head, though planned according to a strict canon of proportions, is rendered as a volumetric portrait of a living being, while the fictive marble frame and floriated nimbus emphasize the subject's closeness to the picture plane and to the viewer just beyond it. Here, however, Christus fuses the Holy Face type (which derives from the supposed imprint of Christ's face on Veronica's Veil) with that of the Ecce Homo, depicting Christ in the midst of his suffering—robed in purple, a crown of thorns piercing his furrowed brow. The refinement of this image makes it more comparable with Christus's portraits than with the somewhat formulaic heads in his religious paintings.

4 Compare to Van der Weyden
Petrus Christus (c ), Portrait of Edward Grimson, ¼ X 9 ¾”. On loan to the National Gallery, London The earliest signed and dated works by Christus are two portraits executed in The identity of this portrait is established on the basis of the coat of arms in the painting. Edward Grimston was a diplomat in the service of Henry VI, King of England. He holds a chain of linked SSs, a Lancastrian device, in his hands. Grimston had been sent to the Netherlands in , during which time Christus executed his portrait. This is one of the earliest bust-length portraits by a Netherlandish painter to explore the possibilities of an interior setting. The bust of the sitter appears in the corner of a room that is illuminated by light shining through an oculus window. The costume and headgear are stiff and rigid, and Grimston stares coolly off to the left. Above, the beams of the ceiling recede sharply to deepen the extension of the chamber, and the light playing across the back wall further models the space. The well-defined domestic setting places the spectator on a new, intimate relationship with the sitter for the first time. Compare to Van der Weyden

5 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Portrait of Edward Grimson, 1446
Petrus Christus (c ), Portrait of Edward Grimson, ¼ X 9 ¾”. On loan to the National Gallery, London Rogier van der Weyden (c ), Francesco d’Este, c ¾ X 8”. MET

6 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Portrait of a Carthusian Monk, c. 1446
Petrus Christus (c ), Portrait of a Carthusian Monk, c ½ X 8”. MET Jan van Eyck, Portrait of a Young Man, X 7”. London, National Gallery This painting is one of the few extant independent portraits of a male cleric. The sitter is shown in three-quarter view, behind an illusionistic stone molding inscribed with the Latin form of the artist's name and the date of the picture's execution. In certain ways, it represents an homage to the lifelike portraits of Jan van Eyck in its three-quarter bust-length view, and the attention lavished upon the depiction of textures and of the changing quality of light on surfaces. Here, Christus also implemented van Eyck's use of a trompe-l'oeil frame as a window between sitter and viewer, extending the illusion of the space from one side to the other. The ways in which the Portrait of a Carthusian differs from van Eyck's representations show the innovations Christus brought to Flemish portraiture. Instead of employing a uniformly dark, anonymous setting, Christus set off the white-robed figure with a warm red, ambiguous background. Here he also introduced a new concept in panel painting: the corner-space portrait.

7 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Portrait of a Carthusian Monk, c. 1446
Petrus Christus (c ), Portrait of a Carthusian Monk, c ½ X 8”. MET The sitter is anchored obliquely in a narrow cell-like space defined by two sources of light: an intense raking light issuing from the right and a softer glow illuminating the back left corner. The subtle modeling of the face and habit through the manipulation of light further enhances the illusionistic impact of the setting.

8 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Portrait of a Carthusian Monk, c. 1446
Petrus Christus (c ), Portrait of a Carthusian Monk, c ½ X 8”. MET Further eliminating the barrier between sitter and viewer, Christus added the ingenious device of the trompe-l'oeil fly, momentarily perched just above the artist's name on the windowsill. Though some have read symbolic meaning into the motif—e.g., as a protective talisman or a momento mori—Christus may be playfully demonstrating his talents at trompe-l'oeil. The original intention of the portrait was altered by the later addition of an incised arc and a gold halo, which served to illegitimately canonize a lay figure. With the recent removal of the halo, viewers can better appreciate the original qualities of this dazzling, intimate portrait.

9 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), A Goldsmith in his Shop, 1449. 39 X 33 ½”. MET
Among Christus's best known works, A Goldsmith in his Shop, signed and dated 1449, is also perhaps his most enigmatic. This view into a goldsmith's stall, where a fashionably dressed couple chooses a wedding ring, conveys a sense of the opulent world of 15th-century burghers. The goldsmith was once identified as Saint Eligius, who brought Christianity to Flanders and was associated in Bruges with the guilds of the gold-and silversmiths, the blacksmiths and metalworkers, and (along with Saint Luke) the painters and saddle makers.

10 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), A Goldsmith in his Shop, 1449. 39 X 33 ½”. MET
Petrus Christus's goldsmith used to be haloed, but in 1993, his aura was removed as a later addition at the museum's conservation department; its authenticity had been doubted for decades. With his halo, the main protagonist of the painting was robbed of the only attribute that characterized him as a saint. It is more likely a vocational painting, depicting the profession of goldsmithing and perhaps a particular goldsmith.

11 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), A Goldsmith in his Shop, 1449. 39 X 33 ½”. MET
The lack of a halo is not the only reason why the goldsmith cannot be St Eligius. In early Netherlandish art, he was as a rule represented as a mitered bishop. The appearance of Petrus Christus's goldsmith does not match the traditional iconography of the saint: his halo is missing, he is not dressed as a bishop and does not have his attribute of a hammer; he is not even depicted as a goldsmith, but as a jeweler. Besides, there is no episode in the saint's vita that would account for the presence of the young couple.

12 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), A Goldsmith in his Shop, 1449. 39 X 33 ½”. MET
Technical analysis reveals the underdrawing of the goldsmith's face to be very fully modeled—more so than the faces of the bridal couple—suggesting the possibility of a portrait. It has been proposed that he is Willem van Vleuten, a Bruges goldsmith who worked for Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy. In 1449, the date of this painting, the duke commissioned from van Vlueten a gift for Mary of Guelders for her marriage to James II, King of Scots. That couple may well be depicted in this painting. It has also been proposed that the work should be understood as a vocational painting—a depiction of a profession, in this case a Flemish goldsmith in his workplace conducting business—and that it was commissioned to decorate a guild chapel. The commemorative function of vocational paintings would explain this painting’s extremely unusual life-size scale; the attempt to give the goldsmith more individualized features than those displayed by his customers; and the emphasis on formal gestures, which endows the image with a serious, almost hieratic quality.

13 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), A Goldsmith in his Shop, 1449. 39 X 33 ½”. MET
Indicatively, the articles shown on the shelves include raw materials and finished products, both secular and religious, of the goldsmith’s trade. The most important liturgical object is to the right on the bottom shelf, a crystal ciborium perhaps meant to house a relic or store Eucharistic wafers; the top shelf holds secular wares, namely silver presentation pitchers and a hanging belt buckle, below which are exhibited beads, brooches and rings. There are also numerous items with presumed apotropaic properties, particularly the cup made from a coconut shell, the fossilized shark’s teeth and the branch of coral.

14 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), A Goldsmith in his Shop, 1449. 39 X 33 ½”. MET
The convex mirror is a detail that Jan van Eyck famously employed both in the portrait of the Arnolfini of In this work the mirror not only describes the site of the workshop but also may add a moralizing dimension. It perhaps signifies the imperfections of the real world, as represented by the reflection of the vast space outdoors, where one of the two standing men holds a falcon, in contrast to the small but secure and ideal space inhabited by the devoted couple and the goldsmith. The falcon is traditionally a symbol of pride and greed, a meaning reinforced by the idea of vanity associated with the mirror and played off against the sense of virtue evoked by the solemn couple in the goldsmith’s shop. In the stillness of the shop’s interior, the goldsmith looks out as the scales tip to his right, toward the couple and in the direction of the righteous, perhaps indicating the future fidelity of the man and woman or symbolizing the Last Judgment.

15 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Nativity, c. 1445. 51 ¼ X 38 ¼”
Petrus Christus (c ), Nativity, c ¼ X 38 ¼”. National Gallery of Art Rogier van der Weyden (c ), Miraflores Altarpiece, c X 16 7/8”. Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen The Nativity is one of Christus’ most accomplished paintings and was perhaps the central panel of a large triptych. The impressive treatment of the huge arch that introduces us to the scene was certainly inspired by Rogier’s simulated architectural settings and the tender characterization of the Madonna, the local color, and the crisp landscape bathed in a bright light are derived from van Eyck; but the clarity of space and the geometrics of the composition are features of his Dutch heritage. The proscenium arch functions not as a theatrical setting for the narrative but as a giant diaphragm arch that establishes the position of the viewer in regard to the rigid compositional and special construction of the Nativity beyond it. It also serves as a provocative introduction to the iconography, the Birth of Christ as the priest of man’s salvation.

16 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Nativity, c. 1445. 51 ¼ X 38 ¼”
Petrus Christus (c ), Nativity, c ¼ X 38 ¼”. National Gallery of Art The sculptures adorning the jambs and arch of the portal clearly mark it as the domain of the profane world “before the Law” was established. The jamb figures, Adam and Eve, proclaim the fall of man through the transgressions of the first parents.

17 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Nativity, c. 1445. 51 ¼ X 38 ¼”
Petrus Christus (c ), Nativity, c ¼ X 38 ¼”. National Gallery of Art They stand on columns that, in turn, rest on the hunched backs of atlantes-like figures who represent those burdened by the fall, while the fighting warriors in the spandrels of the arch are reminders of the conflict and chaos that followed.

18 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Nativity, c. 1445. 51 ¼ X 38 ¼”
Petrus Christus (c ), Nativity, c ¼ X 38 ¼”. National Gallery of Art 2 Archivolt sculptures The archivolt sculptures spell out the consequence for the first family after the expulsion of Adam and Eve, the story of Cain and Abel and the first murder, to God’s reproach of Cain and his setting out for Nod, the land of the unredeemed, to which he was banished. The architectural framework is lit by a low light source from the left, so that the contrasting shadows make the relief stand out.

19 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Nativity, c. 1445. 51 ¼ X 38 ¼”
Petrus Christus (c ), Nativity, c ¼ X 38 ¼”. National Gallery of Art

20 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Nativity, c. 1445. 51 ¼ X 38 ¼”
Petrus Christus (c ), Nativity, c ¼ X 38 ¼”. National Gallery of Art The clearly constructed cubic space just beyond it formed by the stable represents the world under grace with the coming of Christ, the “New Law.” The ruined back wall of the stable then forms a barrier behind the holy scene, where 4 shepherds stand but do not seem to understand what has happened. They are those who listen but do not hear (left) and look without seeing (right) and perhaps refer to the state of man under the Jewish law of Moses. Two unusual details mark the upper and lower limits of the stable. Below, in the foreground, are four unhewn rocks at the entrance to the scene. These signify the sins of Cain and of man in general: “the stones that he bids us throw out from our way are our sins” lest we stumble on them when Christ calls for us. Above, in the triangle formed by the rafters, a green sprout grows up from the king post against the soft morning sky. Traditionally, this sprig symbolizes the new life that springs from the old, but it could also refer to the root of Jesse and the flowering rod of Aaron, both Old Testament types of the Virgin Birth in Gothic typologies. The Nativity thus occupies an isolated and sanctified ground between the two profane worlds. Joseph of the Old Testament has removed his shoes in honor of the hallowed spot for he, like Moses before the Burning Bush, has seen God. The image of the nude Child lying on the ground, a golden disk or paten beneath him, can thus be associated with Christ as the host in the Mass, the “living bread that came down from heaven.”

21 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Nativity, c. 1445. 51 ¼ X 38 ¼”
Petrus Christus (c ), Nativity, c ¼ X 38 ¼”. National Gallery of Art Christus depicted not only the historical moment of Jesus' birth but also the enactment of the first Mass, an image deriving in part from the revelation of Saint Bridget, which had become the conventional visualization of the Nativity by the early fifteenth century. The angels wear eucharistic vestments of the subministers of the Mass, though none wears the chasuble worn by the principal celebrant, suggesting that Christ himself is here both priest and sacrifice.

22 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Lamentation, c. 1450. 10 1/8 X 14”. MET
A compact, tightly organized and meticulously painted picture charged with intense emotion, The Lamentation was probably made as an independent panel intended for private devotion. The Gospel of John is the primary source for the image and the only account of the Lamentation that includes references to both Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus. John is also the only apostolic narrative that cites the crucified Christ’s words to his mother, “Woman, behold thy son,” and to his disciple John, “Behold thy mother.” The latter admonition has profound meaning for this picture, as John is shown actively beginning his stewardship of the Virgin by supporting her in the embrace of his arms. Mary’s pose, a sympathetic response to that of her dead son, illustrates the themes of compassion and co-redemptio; with her posture echoing Christ’s, she shares his suffering and his role as Redeemer.

23 periods have been found all over Europe.
Petrus Christus (c ), Lamentation, c /8 X 14”. MET Lamentation, c ¾ X 75 5/8”. Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts In the foreground of a shelving landscape, Christ's body is laid on a white shroud. Joseph of Arimathea, richly clad in velvet, brocade and fur, holds the left end of this winding sheet. Christ's torso is slightly raised by Nicodemus. Behind this figure group, the swooning Virgin is sustained by her half-sister and by St. John. At the left of the painting Mary Magdalene clasps her hands together in a gesture of subdued despair. Watching the event on the right are two figures. In the background of the painting, some small figures of pilgrims appear. One is walking along the river, and can be seen between Joseph of Arimathea and the group around the swooning Virgin, another is vaguely discernible in front of the houses before the castle, at the same height as St. John's back, and a third can be recognized between St. John and the puzzling male figure on the right. They all wear black cloaks, black hats and carry staffs-the traditional outfit for a pilgrim. The figure to the right of St. John is even wearing a pilgrim's badge. Similar badges from different periods have been found all over Europe. The meaning of the pilgrims in the context of a Lamentation is evident. They must be visitors to the Holy Tomb, in other words, pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. A scene from the Passion here symbolizes the very aim of the pilgrims' voyage: the city of Jerusalem, and more specifically Christ's tomb. Both the subject matter and the presence of the pilgrims in the background of the Brussels Lamentation make it plausible to relate the panel to the Jerusalem Chapel in Bruges. This chapel was the main center of devotion to the Holy Sepulcher in the city. It was founded in 1427 by Pieter II and Jacob Adornes, members of the famous Genoese family that had settled in Bruges as merchants and bankers at the beginning of the fourteenth century. A special veneration for Jerusalem was a well-established tradition in the Adornes family. Pieter II and Jacob both went to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage. The most famous member of the family was Anselmus Adornes, who lived from 1424 to On November, 12, 1434 Anselmus married Margaretha vander Banck, who was to give him 16 children. From 1444 on, he frequently served in the city government. He and his wife are the two figures represented on the right.

24 Rogier van der Weyden (c. 1400-64), Deposition, c. 1438
Rogier van der Weyden (c ), Deposition, c ’ 2 5/8” X 8’ 7 1/8”. Madrid, Prado Petrus Christus (c ), Lamentation, c /8 X 14”. MET A more subdued expression is created by wide spacing of the forms and contained moods, in contrast to the taut rhythms of Rogier’s Deposition with its emotional pathos.

25 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Annunciation, c. 1450. 31 ½ X 25 ¼”. MET
In this work of haunting poetic beauty the miracle of the Annunciation is communicated as much by the rapturous depiction of a verdant nature as by the diminutive figures of the angel Gabriel and the Virgin. The panel is a fragment of what may have been a much larger horizontal composition. The outdoor setting and multiple points of view are two of this work’s most unusual features. No less notable is the placement of the standing Virgin in the doorway. Numerous iconographic references amplify the intent of the composition. The architectural elements of the ecclesiastical portal in which the Virgin stands contrasts the outmoded Romanesque style to her left—representing Old Testament Judaism—with the newer, Gothic style to her right—symbolizing New Testament Christianity.

26 Jan van Eyck (c. 1395-1441), Annunciation, c. 1434/36
Jan van Eyck (c ), Annunciation, c. 1434/36. Oil on canvas transferred from panel, 34 ½” X 13 7/16”. National Gallery of Art. Petrus Christus (c ), Annunciation, c ½ X 25 ¼”. MET An empty niche above the Virgin’s head presumably awaits the figure of the unborn Christ, who will link these two worlds. Mary’s role as the spiritual doorway to heaven is, literally, spelled out on the tiles of the step. The placement of the Virgin within the doorway, on the threshold, the point of liminality, between the old and the new worlds, refers not only to her part in the Annunciation but also to her larger roles as the personification of the Church and as intercessor for the salvation of humankind. The plants represented are commonly found in fields, woodlands, and wetlands, with the exception of the lily, which in the mid-15th century was grown solely for medicinal purposes. The particular plants shown would not be in bloom on March 25th, the date of the Annunciation, yet their detailed portrayal is based on sound botanical observation. These ordinary plants, which carpet almost a third of the painting surface here, serve as a foil for the formality of the Annunciation scene; the symbolism of some of them may serve to reinforce the picture’s religious iconography. The most prominent flower is the lily, in the alcove between the figures of Gabriel and the Virgin.

27 Petrus Christus (c ), Annunciation and Nativity and Last Judgment altarwings, ¾ X 22” (each. Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen Two tall panels in Berlin, signed and dated 1452, were originally the side shutters of a large altarpiece, but the central panel is missing. The left wing has an Annunciation atop a Nativity. The right panel is an abridged version of Jan van Eyck’s Last Judgment at the MET.

28 Jan van Eyck, Last Judgment, c. 1430. 22 ¼ X 7 2/3”
Jan van Eyck, Last Judgment, c ¼ X 7 2/3”. MET Petrus Christus (c ), Last Judgment altarwing, 1452 The differences in style between the two works are instructive to study. The rich, highly detailed surface pattern and flow of countless tiny figures up and down, in and out of space in Van Eyck’s dense composition have been dramatically reduced and strictly organized by Christus. The demarcations of heaven, earth and hell are clearly indicated and the atmosphere has been pumped out, giving the whole a barren quality.

29 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Male Donor and Female Donor, c. 1450-60
Petrus Christus (c ), Male Donor and Female Donor, c ½ X 8 ½” (each). National Gallery of Art This portrait and its mate were most likely part of a hinged three-part panel painting called a triptych. These were almost certainly the wings, which when opened showed the man and woman praying to an image of the Virgin and Child in the center. Since they are depicted in a domestic setting, the panels were probably made for private devotion in the couple's home. The woman's costume is that of a wealthy matron from the Low Countries, but the coat of arms depicted is that of the Vivaldi, a prominent Genoese family with extensive banking and commercial interests in the north. Stuck to the wall with dabs of red sealing wax is a woodcut. It depicts Saint Elizabeth of Thuringia, so in all likelihood the woman's name was also Elizabeth or some variant of it. Undoubtedly, she and her husband, known to be a member of the Lomellini family by the coat of arms on his portrait, were part of the large Italian business community in Bruges. These families, because they carried small panels like this one home with them, played an important role in spreading the oil technique and the precise style of northern paintings to Italy.

30 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Virgin and Child in Gothic Interior, c
Petrus Christus (c ), Virgin and Child in Gothic Interior, c /8 X 20”. Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Museum Clarity of space and soft tonalities characterize this work. Laid out with a precise perspective (the vanishing point lies near the cushion on the tester bed to the right), the room telescopes in well-marked boxes: the furthest, with Saint Joseph entering through an open court, is flooded with light; in the lofty foreground bedchamber, where Mary and the Child appear resting before an open window, the light is modulated in soft tones of brown and gray, giving it a simple cubistic appearance uncluttered by details and objects in bright local color. The unadorned expanses of the walls, the floor, and the furniture lend the picture a humble serenity and transmit this homeliness to the beautiful young Mary, whose face is reduced to a smooth sphere as she sits directly in the warm sunlight.

31 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Madonna and Child, 1460-65. 19 X 13”
Petrus Christus (c ), Madonna and Child, X 13”. Prado Mary sits in a portico open to the landscape, holding the Christ Child as Savior of the World in her lap. In one hand, the infant holds a globe of the world and with the other he offers blessings. Wearing a red cloak that alludes to the future Passion of her Son, the Virgin is about to be crowned Queen of Heaven by an angel. Though he was very interested in space and perspective, Christus sometimes committed errors, as happens here in his representation of a house with just one wall behind the frontal arch.

32 Petrus Christus (c. 1410-73), Madonna of the Dry Tree, c. 1462. 7 X 5”
Petrus Christus (c ), Madonna of the Dry Tree, c X 5”. Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza The subject of this tiny panel can be directly related to the Confraternity of Our Lady of the Dry Tree, whose members included Petrus Christus and his wife, who became members around This confraternity, which is mentioned in a document of 1396, had a chapel in the Franciscan church of the Minorites in Bruges, which was destroyed in 1578 during the religious wars. Among the confraternity’s most important members were the Dukes of Burgundy and other leading members of political and civil life in Bruges. According to 18th-century accounts of little historical credibility, the confraternity was in fact founded by Philip the Good. It was said that before the Duke entered battle against the French, the Virgin and Child appeared to him in the trunk of a dry tree. Philip prayed for victory in front of the image, which was granted to him. The story ends with the foundation of the confraternity in thanks for and commemoration of the victory. In this tiny oil on panel Christus, perhaps on the request of the patron, represented the message of redemption implicit in this particular, symbolic presentation of the Virgin and Child. The iconography is inspired by the Book of Ezekiel, wherein the Prophet Ezekiel says, “I the Lord have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish.”  Theologians interpret this as a reference to Original Sin, with Mary replacing Eve as the “mother of the world.”  Eve, in the Garden of Eden, was once the “green tree,” flowering and flourishing.  But God made her wither and instead granted favor to the dry tree (Mary as a childless woman), allowing her to bring forth fruit from her womb.  The parallel analogy is that the Tree of Knowledge is the dry tree, which died after Original Sin and the expulsion from Eden, but which would flower once more with the virginal conception of Christ. The message is emphasized in the present panel through the depiction of the Infant Christ, who holds an earthly sphere crowned with a cross in a clear allusion to his role as man’s Redeemer. In addition, the bent and interlaced dry branches of the tree assume the shape of a crown that clearly refers to his future Passion. Hanging from the branches are fifteen golden “As” that symbolize the first letter of the Ave Maria or “Hail Mary”. The number fifteen has been related to the mysteries of the rosary, used to pray to Mary, the intercessor between man and God. The present panel may have been commissioned by a member of the confraternity for the purpose of private devotion, or it could have been painted by Christus for his own use as a member of that confraternity. From its high degree of finish it seems likely that the painting was conceived as a precious object, again suggested in the clear emphasis on materials and textures. The figures, with their rounded heads and firmly defined features, exemplify Christus’ best work.

33 Rogier van der Weyden, Portrait of a Lady, c. 1455. 14 ½ X 10 ¾”
Rogier van der Weyden, Portrait of a Lady, c ½ X 10 ¾”. National Gallery of Art Petrus Christus (c ), Portrait of a Young Woman, c X 8 ¼”. Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen Petrus Christus's portraits are the first in Netherlandish painting to show the subject in concrete spatial surroundings, which adds a great deal to the immediacy of their appearance. His portraits are characterized by their static soberness and their concentration on a few mimic details. The background of the paintings is reduced but remains specific in its spatiality. Christus’ sitter has a slightly petulant mouth and a studied but sidelong glance. Perfectly balanced facial features are rarely, if ever, found in nature, and Christus has not shied away from representing this particular woman’s skewed eyelids and projecting brow. He has also taken pains to locate her physically, providing an illuminated rear wall complete with a wooden wainscoting. However haunting, this sitter is remarkably down-to-earth. Never have the bold stereometric qualities of the face been more effective. The smooth countenance and the eyes that glance sharply to the right make this one of the most provocative portraits in Netherlandish art.

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