15th C, Early Netherlandish Painting, Circle of Hans Memling (Seligenstadt, c. 1430:'40 - Bruges, 1494), John the Baptist, Oil on Panel, 18.5 x 12.5 cm, Framed
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Circle of Hans Memling (Seligenstadt, c. 1430:'40 - Bruges, 1494) Early Netherlandish Painting; Saint John is portrayed as the Baptist of Jesus Christ, who is symbolized by the Lamb lying on the Bible. The banderole with the inscription "ECCE AGNVS DEI Q.P.M." ("Behold the Lamb of God") points out that John was the first man to refer to Jesus as the Messiah or the savior of the Israeli people. Although the baptism took place in the Jordan River that flows through the desert area of Judah, the painter chose a woodland setting like one could find in our regions. Behind the Lamb waves a flag with George's cross. This white flag with red cross was associated with the crusaders who tried to liberate Jerusalem and erected a large Church of the Holy Sepulcher on the site of Christ's tomb. That is also the reason why the resurrected Christ is often depicted with this flag type. You could read the flag as a sign of victory of Christianity over other faiths, including Islam. The inscription on the bottom "FVIT HOMO MISSVS A DEO CVI NOMEN ERAT JOHANNE" ("A man of God was sent, whose name was John"), refers to Saint John's role as a Baptist. As a young man, John lived in the desert and preached the gospel. He walked around in a cloak, of course, camel hair, held together by a belt. The artist tried to reproduce the structure of the camel hair by drawing parallel ocher stripes on the brown robe. It lacks the subtlety and tactility of Memling, who painted John's camel coat's hair more irregularly and varied in the thickness of the lines (see S. John Altar in the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna, c. 1485-1490). Memlings' figures of saints also show more individual features. The artist of this painting seems to know little about lambs' appearance, in contrast to Memling, whose lambs look more realistic. Nevertheless, the artistic quality of this panel is excellent. The understated atmosphere and the refinement of the landscape certainly have their value. On the rear side, there is a paper label with the inscriptions "Collectie Wagner De Wit," "AFD:S," and the inventory number "106". Later, the panel became part of the former Vrijthof Museum collection in Maastricht (n° 891215).