119
119
Bruges School, circa 1550
FOUR ACTS OF MERCY: BURYING THE DEAD; VISITING THE SICK; FEEDING THE HUNGRY; GIVING DRINK TO THE THIRSTY.
Estimate
100,000150,000
LOT SOLD. 187,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
119
Bruges School, circa 1550
FOUR ACTS OF MERCY: BURYING THE DEAD; VISITING THE SICK; FEEDING THE HUNGRY; GIVING DRINK TO THE THIRSTY.
Estimate
100,000150,000
LOT SOLD. 187,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Master Paintings & Sculpture Day Sale

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Bruges School, circa 1550
FOUR ACTS OF MERCY: BURYING THE DEAD; VISITING THE SICK; FEEDING THE HUNGRY; GIVING DRINK TO THE THIRSTY.
Quantity: 4
each indistinctly inscribed lower left
a set of four, all oil on panel
the first: 27 1/4  by 24 5/8  in.; 69.2 by 62.5 cm.;
the second: 27 1/4  by 24 1/2  in.; 69.2 by 62.2 cm.;
the third: 27 1/2  by 24 3/4  in.; 69.9 by 62.9 cm;
the fourth: 27 1/2  by 24 5/8  in.; 69.9 by 62.5 cm. 
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Catalogue Note

This intriguing set of panels depicting four of the seven Acts of Mercy seem to have been painted by an artist active in Bruges in the mid-sixteenth century.  The figural and facial types, as well as the poses of the individual characters, are reminiscent of the works of Pieter Pourbus and members of the Claeissens family, though the handling and application of the paint point to an as yet unidentified hand. 

The panels in this set probably once numbered seven in total, making up the total of the seven Acts of Mercy.  In addition to Burying the dead, Visiting the sick, Feeding the hungry, and Giving drink to the thirsty seen here in the present lot, other panels may have depicted Visiting the imprisoned, Sheltering the homeless, and Clothing the naked.  A figure of Christ garbed in red appears in each, as do likenesses four similarly dressed men.  Their costume and appearance connect them in a way that suggests they are portraits of members of the same family or a confraternity, and in some cases the likenesses are so similar that they might even be the same person.    

It is very likely that these panels were meant for a religious institution, confraternity, or a location where the act of giving alms was carried out, where they served as visual reminders for holy and charitable behavior.  In their function, these panels can be compared to a large frieze-like scene depicting the Seven Acts of Mercy, completed in 1504 by the Master of Alkmaar and today in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.1

The recent cleaning of one of the panels from the set, Burying the dead, has not only  unveiled a vibrant color palette, a brushy treatment of the individual faces, and a greater sense of depth in the background, but also hints of the underdrawing used to render the scene.  This free and lively underdrawing, which is faintly visible to the naked eye, is more fully revealed by IRR imaging (fig. 1). 

1.  Oil on panel, 119.1 by 469.5 cm., inv. no. SK-A-2815. 

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