SABAUDA GALLERY, Memling

Audio File length: 2.40
Author: STEFANO ZUFFI E DAVIDE TORTORELLA
English / USA Language: English / USA

You are now looking at one of the most unusual and attractive works of the Sabauda Gallery: Scenes from the Passion of Christ, painted by Hans Memling around 1470. Even though he was born in Germany, Memling became the most important painter of the second half of the 1400s in Bruges, the charming town of Flanders; at the time it was an important European commercial and financial center, and an artistic capital in full bloom.

With this inventive composition, Memling transforms the story of the Passion of Christ into a complete narrative! The painter has depicted many episodes of Jesus' last days, from the Last Supper to the Flagellation, from the kiss of Judas to the Resurrection and the Descent to Limbo, all gathered and set within a single city scene! At first glance, the painting might just look like a shrill landscape of figures, but once you get closer you'll note the different scenes, one after another.

The painting is set in an imaginary Jerusalem; if you think about it, the profiles of the palaces with spires and tall Gothic buildings look like any Flanders trade city of his time! In fact, at that time religion encouraged the faithful to personalize and actualize the events of Christ's life by transferring them into reality and the sphere of everyday life, as was done in mass with the popular and theatrical productions of the Mystery Plays.

With a great deal of imagination, Memling creates various spaces and environments inside and outside the city walls, placing the different scenes of the Passion of Jesus: the figures are tiny and are painted with endless patience using miniaturist tools and techniques. So you, too, must search to find the various figures and understand what they're doing!

In addition to the amazing technical invention of the tale, admire the pictorial skill with which this masterpiece has been created. For example, look at the details in the city walls illuminated by the sun and note how Memling depicts the various times of day with accurate representations of light and atmospheric effects.

 

FUN FACT: even though this painting was made in Bruges, it had been commissioned by the Italian banker Tommaso Portinari, who headed the Flemish branch of Banco Mediceo, the Florentine bank owned by the Medici family. You can also see him in the painting kneeling in prayer in the lower left corner, while his wife Beatrice is portrayed at the bottom right.

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