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MEMLING


173


MEMLING


own, being in 14S0 the owner of three houses, one of cannot be entered into here, but even if Memling were

them "a large stone house" {domus magna lapidea), the author of only the few pictures in the hospital of

and figuring on the fiscal registers among the two Bruges, none the less is he one of the most delightful

hundred and forty-seven highest taxed citizens. At geniuses of painting, and the lieenest poet of tlie whole

this time he married Anne de Valkenjere (d. 1487), by Flemish school.

whom he had three sons, Jean, Cornelius, and Nicho- Though he accomplished nothing comparable

las. With a studio filled with pupils, he received to Van Eyck's great painting, the retable of the


commissions from the chief citizens of the town, such as Moreel and Floreins, and his fame reached beyond Flanders. The " Anonyme" of Morelli, who wrote in 1521, seems to know but two Flemish painters; every picture of this school at Bergamo, Venice, Padua, which he does not attribute to Jan van Eyck he at- tributes to Memling.

The remainder of Meraling's history is that of his works. The first certain date is 1467. In that year the painter executed the portrait, now at Antwerp, of the Italian medallist Nicolo Spinelli, then in the service of tlie Duke of Bur- gundy. The following year he executed the triptych of the Donne family, now at Chatsworth in tlic collection of the Duke of Devonshire. In fact Sir John must have formed part of the escort which accompanied Mar- garet of York at the time of her marriage with Charles the Bold. The following chronological list constitutes almost all our information: 1478, retable exec\ited for the illuminator (iuillaume Vrelant, now at the Acad- emy of Turin; 1479, trip- tych of the "Adoration of the Magi", executed for Jean Floreins; triptych of the " Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine", with the "Life" of the two Saint Johns, both in the hospital of St. John at Bruges; 1480, retable for Peter Bultinc, now at the old Pinacothek of Munich; triptych of the Grocer's Guild, a lost pic- ture; portraits of Guillaume Moreeland liiswife (Museum of Brussels), and of their daughter Marie Moreel (the Sibyl Sambeth) in the hos- pital of St. John


" Mystic Lamb ", there is in his work a rarer, nobler, and more touching quality. The general character- istics of Flemish painting are an unsurpassed technical perfection, a realism, a rigour in the study and imita- tion of facts, such as render it impossible to say whether this perfection is more the condition or the effect. As a craftsman Memling is inferior to none of his Flemish predecessors or imitators;! he paints fabrics, velvets, flesh tints like Jan van Eyck himself. In sentiment he is far superior, or rather dwells in a finer atmos- phere, for the price of the uncompromising realism of the Flemish is often ugli- ness and vulgarity. In some works of Jan van Eyck, as the " van der Pa^le Virgin " at the Academy of Bruges, the mediocrity of the types, the absence of imagination and taste, in a word the flatness, reach a painful de- gree. The same is true of the subsequent works, such as the celebrated " Nativity" of van der Goes in the Uffizi of Florence, in which the power of the " study " is only equalled by the insignificance or the triviality of its taste, and of those of the entire school from Petrus Christus and the Master of Flemalle to the pretentious Thierry Bouts and the early works of Gerard David. AH these works are strong in execu- tion Ijut weak in feeling. It is true that Roger Van der Weyden attempted to introduce passion into this realism, but liis painful in- tensity most frequently results in a convulsive, dis- torted, affected style. Emotionalism runs riot with him, producing the effect


The Presentation Memling, The Prado, Madrid

Bruges; 1484, triptych of the Moreel family, at the of nervous strain or disease. In the midst of this

Academy of Bruges; 14S7, diptych of Martin van powerful but inartistic school the work of Memling

Nieuenhove, at the hospital of St. John at Bruges; astonishes by its subtle grace and refinement. In

portrait of a man in the Uffizi Museum, Florence; execution equal to anyone of his contemporaries,

1489, recovery of the shrine of St. Ursula, and placing he transfigured all that he touched. Through all

of relics in this shrine; 1491, polyptych of the "Cathe- his portraits shines the radiance of the soul within,

dral of Lubeck". By adding to these works several Compare, for example, the St. William of the Moreel

other pictures (the Louvre possesses the greatest num- triptych, in his black armour, that wonderful type

ber) we have a total of twenty exquisite paintings of Christian knight and soldier monk, with the awk-

constituting the whole of Memling's authentic work, ward St. George of the " van der Paele Virgin ",

Some critics, like Kammerer (Memling, 1899) have that soldier so ill at ease in his role of saint, and meas-

sought, without good reason, to augment this cata- ure the difference between the crudeness of Van Eyck

logue by adding to it other works by analogy. An- and the psychological insight of Memling. This gift

other school, that of Wiirzbach, refuses to admit that has made Memling the only Flemish painter who knew

all the Works cited above are the works of a single how to depict woman. lie bestowed on her the same

author. They withdraw from Memling, the pictures external luxury of draperies and attire, the same

of Munich and Turin; the "Reliquary of St. Ursula"; mantles, the same furs, the same wide skirts in majes-

the polyptychs of Lubeck and Dantzig, allowing him tic folds, with which the Flcinish ^chiiol in general

almost nothing except the portraits and pictures of the loves to adorn her; but benc;illi tlii< In :nitifal attire

hospital of St. John, the Triptych of Chatsworth, and the Virgins of Van Eyck rfinain bmniinnxes while

two or three others closely related. Such a discussion those of Memling are young queens. His saints are