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The Fall of Man and The Lamentation

Hugo van der Goes1470/1475

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

As contrasting pairs [see the second image in the "details"] the Fall and the Redemption of Man, death and life, a paradise flooded with light and a dark overcast horizon, find their formal counterpart in this stylistic and compositional realisation of the theme. The delicate and sharply contoured bodies of the first two human beings are quite different from the figures in the Lamentation, which are interpreted in a painterly fashion and set restlessly into the scene in a continuation of the tradition of Rogier van der Weyden’s expressive painting. This has led to the supposition that the two panels were painted at different points in time, rather far apart from one another. Goes, in his striking rendition of the “tempter” with the head of a woman, body of a salamander and feet of an aquatic bird, was falling back on an existing tradition that was occasionally found in Netherlandish (book) paintings. The work is mentioned in 1659 in the inventory of the collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm but attributed in error to Jan van Eyck. Later all knowledge was lost that the two panels of the diptych, which had meanwhile been separated, belonged together. The former outside panel has also been preserved (KHM, GG, Inv. No. 5822 B). They were not presented together again until 1884 and 1887, by that time attributed to van der Goes. Initially, Hugo van der Goes worked primarily in Ghent. His involvement in the decorations for the wedding of Charles the Bold of Burgundy to Margaret of York in Bruges in 1468, however, brought him more widespread fame, awakening the interest of the archduke and later emperor Maximilian. The latter visited the painter in 1477 during a stay in Ghent and Brussels on the occasion of his marriage to Mary of Burgundy. By then, Goes, who was already suffering from depression, had entered the quiet seclusion of a monastery. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery, Vienna 2010

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