The Crucifixion with saint Martin and saint Donatian
- Place of origin:
- Materials and Techniques:
Oil on oak panel
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
The relatively small size of this altarpiece indicates that it was made for a domestic chapel or an altar in a church. The landscape background on the interior panels suggests a Netherlandish origin for the painting. The Annunciate Virgin and Archangel Gabriel in grisaille on the reverse of the wings also supports this and suggest a date of c.1500. Saint Mary Magdalene, accorded prominence with her rosary at the foot of the cross, appears with the Virgin Mary and St John the Evangelist in the central panel. Together with Saints Donatian, whose presence is evidence of a Bruges origin for the triptych, and Martin of Tours in the lateral panels, the foreground figures would have provided mediation and models of devotion for the beholder. They are united by their contemplation of the dying Christ - in contrast to the indifference of the soldiers in the middle ground - and the panoramic landscape that extends across all three parts of the triptych.
Oil on oak panel depicting the Crucifixion with Mary Magdalen at the foot of the cross, St. Donatian and St. Martin. Triptych, the reverse of the wings painted with grisaille figures of the Virgin and the Archangel Gabriel.
Place of Origin
Materials and Techniques
Oil on oak panel
Marks and inscriptions
ACTUM ANNO DOMINI 1535
at the back of the frame
Height: 78.8 cm estimate - left wing, Width: 22.5 cm estimate - left wing, Height: 78.8 cm estimate - centre panel, Width: 54 cm estimate - centre panel, Height: 78.8 cm estimate - right wing, Width: 22.5 cm estimate - right wing
Object history note
Lent by Mrs Alfred Watts, 1867; acquired, 1937
Historical context note
According to Didier Martens, the central panel of this tryptich was probably executed in Bruges due to the presence of saint Donatian, whose cult did not spread much further the city. The fragmentary Annunciation on the reverse of the two side wings was probably painted earlier around 1500. The central panel takes inspiration from Gerard David's Crucifixion (now in Berlin), commissioned in 1501 while the figure of saint Martin echoes a similar figure on the left side wing of a tryptich in the church of Torrecilla en Cameros (Rioja, Spain), commissioned in the 1550s by Martin Gonzales de Andia, who was an important member of Charles V's court, to a Bruges painter of the Claeissens familly, probably Peter the elder. Both painters were probably looking at the same (lost) prototype. The figure of saint Donatian, on the right side wing, clearly refers to the same saint represented in The Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele, executed by Jan van Eyck in 1436. This direct quotation suggests that the author of the present painting saw van Eyck's painting in situ.
Oil painting, 'Triptych: The Crucifixion with Mary Magdalen at the Foot of the Cross', School of Bruges, 1535
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Kauffmann, C.M. Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 51-52, cat. no. 53
Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1937, London: Board of Education, 1938.
Didier Martens, "Une image et sa descendance: échos méconnus de la Madone au chanoine Van der Paele de Jan van Eyck", Revue de l'art, no. 197/2017-3, pp. 29-41, fig. 9 and 12.
Oil paint; Oak
Paintings; Christianity; Religion; Biblical Imagery
Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection