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The Virgin and Child are enthroned in a walled garden, a probable metaphor for her virginity. On the right Saint Barbara reads a book. Mary Magdalene, seated next to her holding on ointment jar, appears to be turning the pages. To the left Saint Catherine receives a ring from the infant Christ (she refused to marry an emperor on the grounds that she was already married to Christ). The everyday world represented beyond the wall was perhaps painted from contemporary Bruges.

David's picture was almost certainly commissioned by the kneeling figure on the left, Richard de Visch van der Capelle, a cantor (senior cleric) of Saint Donatian, Bruges. His identity is recorded in the coat of arms on the greyhound's collar. In 1500 he sought to restore the chapel of Saint Anthony Abbot, who appears in the background behind Saint Barbara. This painting was almost certainly intended for the altar of Saint Catherine there.

Details

  • Title: The Virgin and Child with Saints and Donor
  • Creator: Gerard David
  • Date Created: probably 1510
  • Physical Dimensions: 105.8 x 144.4 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on oak
  • School: Netherlandish
  • More Info: Explore the National Gallery’s paintings online
  • Inventory number: NG1432
  • Artist Dates: active 1484; died 1523
  • Artist Biography: Gerard David was the last great 15th-century painter from Bruges working within the tradition of realism founded by van Eyck. A subtle colourist, he succeeds in creating atmosphere through his evocative landscapes. David's work suffered critical neglect for a long time, but is now highly regarded for its technical skill and gentle mysticism. He is thought to have come from Oudewater where he was probably trained by his artist father. The influence of Rogier van der Weyden is discernible in his work. He entered the painters' guild in Bruges in 1484 and was mainly active there, becoming the leading painter after the death of Memling ten years later. He shared with the other artists from Bruges a concern for precise characterisation and the depiction of the minute details of objects. This makes his pictures rewarding to examine closely.
  • Acquisition Credit: Bequeathed by Mrs Lyne Stephens, 1895

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