Lot 6
  • 6

Flemish School, second half of the fifteenth century

250,000 - 350,000 USD
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  • Virgin and Child
  • oil on panel
  • 12 3/8  by 7 5/8  in.; 31.7 by 19.3 cm.


Madame Ormond, Pris;
Frédéric Spitzer, Paris;
By whom sold, his sale, 17 April - 16 June 1893, lot 3313 (as 16th century, and as part of a triptych with later wings);
Charles Fairfax Murray (1849-1919);
Acquired by Joseph and Henriette Altounian-Lorbet, 14 March 1928;
Thence by descent in the family;
From whom acquired by the present collector.


Paris, L'Hotel des Ducs de Rohan, L'exposition de l'art religieux d'aujourd'hui, 3 May - 11 June 1934, no. 1575 (as Attributed to Juan de Flandes)


C. Luzeret, "L'exposition d'art religieux a l'Hotel de Rohan," in La Batiment Illustré, June 1934, p. 69 (as attributed to Juan de Flandes);
M. Lopez-Robert, "Impresiones de Arte: Exposicion de Arte Religioso," in ABC, 15 August 1934, pp. 6-7, reproduced (as Juan de Flandes);
P. Cordera, La Fabbrica del Rinascimento: Frédéric Spitzer mercante d'arte e collezionista nell'Europa delle nuove Nazioni, Bologna 2014, p. 366, cat. no. 1893/3313.


The following condition report has been provided by Karen Thomas of Thomas Art Conservation LLC., 336 West 37th Street, Suite 830, New York, NY 10018, 212-564-4024, info@thomasartconservation.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting is in very good condition overall. The beautifully preserved figures and angel appear to be in an excellent state of preservation beneath a significantly discolored varnish and accretions of dirt and grime. Beneath the layers of varnish and dirt, the original vivid colors and expert paint handling appear to remain intact. Retouching addresses minor defects including a few small losses, while some strengthening of the shadows in the red lake glazes may exist. It is possible some toning may have been applied to the child's face to increase the contrast which is lessened by the discolored varnish. Adjacent the edge of the Virgin's head and shoulder, remnants of painted dots are just barely visible, suggesting the gilded background would originally have had a painted stippled pattern often seen in the gold grounds of works by Petrus Christus and some of his contemporaries. Presumably, wear in the extremely thin layer of gold leaf led to the addition of new gold leaf, and punchwork was added to mimic the original painted texture. The wood panel support is comprised of a single, vertically grained, tangentially-cut board and displays a mild convex lateral warp. Old woodworm tunnels revealed on the reverse of the panel indicate the panel has been thinned. Cleaning to remove the discolored varnish and accumulations of dirt can be expected to have a positive transformative effect on this picture, and reveal the high quality and vibrancy of the painting.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Rendered with remarkable skill and finesse, this small panel is the work of an accomplished artist active in the Low Countries in the second half of the 15th century.  The Virgin, with her high forehead, flowing gold hair, and jewel trimmed robes of red and green reaches towards her bare breast with her right hand and lovingly supports the Christ Child in her lap with her left.  Draped in a soft white garment, he grasps an ornate prayer book in his hands, while a cross, a symbol of his Passion and held aloft by an angel with multi-colored wings, rests against his shoulder. Such devotional half-length depictions of the Virgin and Child are thought to have been introduced into the Netherlands around 1450 by Rogier van der Weyden, who established an artistic tradition that influenced generations of artists to follow him, among the most prominent being Petrus Christus and Dieric Bouts.  Indeed, the tender design of the present work seems to derive from a Rogierian source, one that has perhaps now been lost.  The elongated face of the Virgin, the ornately trimmed veil, and the sinuous Christ holding a precious prayer book can be compared to those found in Rogier van der Weyden’s Virgin and Child in Half Length of circa 1460-64 in the Huntington Art Collections in San Marino, California.1  A similar motif of the Madonna Lactans appears in another half-length depiction of the Virgin and Child given to the Workshop of Rogier van der Weyden in the Art Institute of Chicago.2 Additionally, the theme of the child clasping the cross is repeated in a few examples recorded by Max Friedländer as relating to this artist, including one painting given to a Follower of Rogier van der Weyden in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.3   The success of Rogier's designs and the many iterations they inspired among artists from the second half of the sixteenth century onward bears witness to the impact and enduring appeal of these new types of half-length devotional images dedicated to the Virgin and her Son, and the present panel is an excellent example of the dissemination of his pictorial tradition.  

That all of the figures in the present work face in one direction towards the right suggest that they very likely once served as the left wing of a small devotional diptych.  When it may have been separated from its counterpart is unknown, but by the time it entered the Spitzer Collection (see Provenance), two wings had been added to flank the right and left of this panel to create a small triptych.  These later wings were arranged in two registers with the Masses of Saint Gregory and Saint Christopher on the left and Saint George slaying the Dragon and Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata on the right.  By the time of its exhibition in 1934 (see Exhibition), these later wings had been removed.

Although the figures within this painting are very well preserved, the punched gilding of the background was perhaps added at a later date.  

Dendrochronological analysis of the Baltic oak panel undertaken by Ian Tyers upholds an early dating for this painting.  His report indicates that the panel dates from after circa 1419.


1.  Inv. no. 26.105, oil on panel, 49.5 by 32 cm. See D. d Vos, Rogier van der Weyden, New York 1999, p. 321, cat. no. 32, reproduced p. 322.
2.  Inv. no. 1933.1052, oil on panel, 38.4 by 28.3 cm. See ibid., pp. 356-357, cat. no. B4A, reproduced p. 357. A copy of the same composition by Dieric Bouts is recorded in the National Gallery, London: inv. no. 2595, oil on panel, 38.3 by 29 cm. See C. Périer-D’Ieteren, Dieric Bouts, Brussels 2006, p. 267, cat. no. 12, reproduced.
3.  Inv. no. 321, oil on panel transferred to canvas, 66 by 47.9 cm, John G. Johnson Collection. See M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Paintings, vol. II, Rogier van der Weyden and the Master of Flemalle, Leiden 1967, p. 68, no. 40Aa. Other examples of this theme recorded by Friedländer are found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. no. 32.100.44) and one formerly in the Traumann Collection, Madrid,  See ibid., p. 68, cat. nos. 40A and 40Ab, both reproduced plate 64.