2012: Advent Art History: Naked Baby Jesus Advent Calendar – December 20

by on December 20, 2012

Virgin and Child Enthroned

Hans Memling


Oil on panel, 81 x 55 cm

For a closeup, click here and then click on the image.

This is one of Hans Memling’s lesser known works, probably because it isn’t kept with the canon of his great works at St John’s Hospital in Bruges (which is utterly wonderful, go see it if you can!). This painting is kept in Berlin.

It’s a variation on a type of Virgin and Child that he painted a lot, where Mary sits on a throne with Jesus on her lap, inside a fanciful loggia (covered walkway) or other imagined architectural fantasy, with a cloth of honour behind her and a detailed background. Usually, the Virgin and Child are flanked by saints and donors.

The background of Memling’s paintings has come under a lot of scruitiny recently, and people have begun to notice a lot of pairs in them. For example the pair of swans on the river by the bridge in this image. Their exact meaning is unclear, but it has been suggested that they represent courtly or divine love.

The vase of lillies on the floor is symbolic of Mary’s Virginity and purity, and the elaborate bench that she sits on has Gothic detailing and is similar to the kind of thing found in contemporary wealthy houses.

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