Dieric Bouts and Hugo van der Goes: Triptych of Saint Hippolytus of Rome (1470)
(Museum of St. Salvator's Cathedral, Bruges, Belgium)
An altarpiece dedicated to Saint Hippolytus of Rome. There are several saints called 'Saint Hippolytus of Rome' which caused much confusion in the past. As a result, it has become very difficult to keep them apart.
The first Saint Hippolytus of Rome was an theologian who came into conflict with several popes (Pope Zephyrinus, Callixtus I, Urban I etc) regarding religious matters. For a time he served as a so-called 'antipope' (a person who serves as a pope in opposition of the legitimately elected Pope) during the reign of the popes Callixtus I, Urban I and Pontian but he reconciled with the Church during the pontificate of pope Pontian.
The second Saint Hippolytus of Rome was a soldier who converted to Christianity after witnessing the martyrdom of saint Lawrence. This Hippolytus was martyred for his faith somewhere between A.D. 250-253. Usually the soldier Saint Hippolytus of Rome is revered in the arts.
Both saints supposedly died as a martyr but the manner how changes throughout the years.
- The left panel shows the portraits of the two patrons of this altarpiece. The man is Hippolyte de Berthoz, the treasurer of Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy. The woman is Elisabeth Huyghens, the wife of Hippolyte de Berthoz.
- The central panel shows the martyrdom of Saint Hippolytus who was dismembered by horses according to some legends. Because of this he is seen as the patron saint of horses.
- The right panel shows prefect Decius with Roman emperor Valerianus. These two are mentioned in the stories regarding the soldier Saint Hippolytus. They mocked the saint and were witnesses of the martyrdom of the saint after which both went insane (an entire fictional story).
The painting was made by the Dutch painter Dieric Bouts (1415-1475) and the Flemish artist Hugo van der Goes (1430-1482). The exact nature of this partnership is unknown. Probably Hugo van der Goes finished the altarpiece (The entire left panel with the donors was done by him) when Diederic Bouts died and left the painting unfinished. Painting from around 1465 - 1475.