Mother of Sorrows

1495 - 1500 | 4th quarter 15th century - 1st quarter 16th centuryOil on woodH x L : 37.3 x 25.6 cm

The outstanding pictorial quality of these panels puts them among the masterpieces of the collection of old masters. Like the reliquary cross, they come from the convent of Our Lady of Luxembourg. The original painted backs of the two panels are preserved. Flowing from one panel to the other, their marble pattern proves that they were conceived from the beginning as a freestanding diptych that was probably painted as a commission.

After the death of their illustrious father Dirk Bouts in 1475, Albrecht and his older brother took over his workshop in the Flemish city of Leuven. The workshop specialized in the creation of small devotional paintings for the market and were sold throughout Europe.

The obviously high demand for this type of works is directly in line with the spreading of the devotio moderna in the second half of the 15th century. This “modern devotion” advocated individual piety in the private setting of people’s homes. The primary function of devotional paintings such as our diptych was to encourage private contemplation. They invited praying Christians to identify themselves with the suffering Christ and to meditate on the mysteries of the faith.

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