Gallery 218, second floor
This exhibition brings together for the first time the two surviving tondos by the great Flemish master Hans Memling (c.1433 – 1494). These small round oil paintings of the Virgin Mary nursing the infant Jesus are peculiarly personal and affective devotional objects that could be held in the hand or hung on a wall. By the fifteenth century, public and private devotion to the Virgin had grown immensely in Northern Europe, and Memling's tondos are part of that movement. Memling's tondos appear iconic in their circular frames. He balanced this otherworldly quality through the realism at which he, like many Bruges painters, excelled. Of the many ways in which the Virgin and Child were shown in paintings and sculpture, Memling chose the most disarmingly natural, focusing on the physical bond of dependence between child and mother. The composition was taken from a famous painting by Robert Campin, the master of his own teacher Rogier van der Weyden. It was renowned and copied myriad times, also in several works in the John G. Johnson Collection, which will be on view.
Lloyd De Witt, Associate Curator of European Painting before 1900