Jesus Christ appearing to the Virgin Mary (part of the Madre de Deus Altarpiece)

Jorge Afonso16th century

MNAA National Museum of Ancient Art

MNAA National Museum of Ancient Art
Lisbon, Portugal

The church of the Convent of Madre de Deus in Xabregas, founded by
the queen Dona Leonor in 1509, contained on its three altars some of the
best painting to be found in Portugal at that time. The side altars were
surmounted by Flemish altarpieces, while the high altar displayed an
enormous group of paintings (one of which is dated 1515), very probably
the work of Jorge Afonso, the royal painter and the head of a workshop
where some of the most important Portuguese painters of the first half
of the sixteenth century were trained and worked. Gathered together
here are seven panels that are believed to have formed an essential part
of this altarpiece: six paintings depicting scenes from the Life of the Virgin
Mary, suggestively organised as one retabular structure, and one painting
alluding to the institution of the Order of the Poor Clares. The importance
of these paintings derives not only from their quality, but also from the fact
that they displayed attempts to produce new iconographic compositions
and artistic models that were to have a major impact on the Portuguese
art. The church’s limited space meant that the nuns were directly
confronted with almost life-size paintings of figures, yet, three decades
later, Dom João III decided to create a much more spacious church and the
altarpiece was taken down and placed in the choir, together with portraits
of the king and queen, marking the beginning of a series of vicissitudes in
which the paintings were repainted and given new sizes, making it difficult
for us now to form a complete idea of their original appearance. They are,
however, works that shed a great deal of light on the nature of the best
Manueline painting, where technical perfection and highly developed
compositional skills were allied to a tendency to make the figures truly
monumental, without, however, neglecting the narrative and descriptive
capacity of the image, even in its details and decorative elements.


  • Title: Jesus Christ appearing to the Virgin Mary (part of the Madre de Deus Altarpiece)
  • Creator: Jorge Afonso (attrib.)
  • Date Created: 16th century
  • Location Created: Portugal
  • Physical Dimensions: 203 cm x 203 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: MNAA Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, inv. 1632 Pint
  • Medium: Oil on oak panel

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more


Google apps