Christ crucified with the Madonna, Saints John the Evangelist and John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene and two Cistercian abbots
|Period||(Seligenstadt, Magonza, 1440 circa - Bruges 1494)|
This board painting was originally the central panel of a small triptych (altogether about cm 83x116 without the frame) that was dismembered at some time in the past.
It is a real masterpiece, the preciousness of which can be seen from a number of details of very high quality: the dramatic expression of the faces of the saints contrasted with the strong characterisation of the faces of the two Cistercian abbots, the dynamic plastic rendering of the draperies, the brilliance of the colours, the fairytale landscape behind the Cross. These are the characteristic elements of Flemish painting, “so lucid and detailed, so apparently naturalistic and actually so structured and cerebral” (Villa), which were soon to be assimilated, along with the technique of oil painting, by the Italian artists of the second half of the fifteenth century (among them Piero della Francesca, Antonello da Messina and Giovanni Bellini).
The work, originally attributed to the Flemish master Jan Van Eyck and assigned to Hans Memling in 1892, probably dates back to the years 1468-1470. In that period the young Memling began to run a workshop of his own in Bruges, making a name for himself as an independent artist, though still remaining close to the language of his teacher Roger van der Weyden, as may be seen in some details of the panel in Vicenza: the sharp precise outlines that define the figures, the unreal landscape in the background, the lean body of Christ and the elegant figure of Magdalene.
Kneeling at the foot of the cross is the patron, the Cistercian Jan Crebbe, abbot of the Abbey of the Dunes at Coxyde, who ordered the triptych to celebrate the fifteenth year of his prelacy. Behind him is his patron saint, the Cistercian Saint Bernard, with Saint John the Baptist.