Michael Sittow: Portrait of Diego de Guevara and Madonna with child and a bird (1515-1518)

(National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA & Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, Germany)



A devotional diptych made by the Estonian artist Michael Sittow (1469 – 1525) who was born in Reval (now Tallinn, Estonia), worked as an apprentice in Bruges (Belgium) and worked as a (court)painter in various countries such as Spain, England, Flanders, Scandinavia etc. The sitter on the right has been identified as Don Diego de Guevara (1450–1520), a Spanish member of the Burgundian court, ambassador and an art collector. He is wearing a white shirt, a brocaded doublet while his robe has a lynx pelt and buttons which are decorated with thistles. Emerging from beneath his fur collar is the embroidered cross of the Order of Calatrava which Diego de Guevara in 1517 as a reward for serving in numerous positions of trust. Diego de Guevara is shown as a modest man who is contemplating Christ’s future sacrifice and the Virgin’s attendant sorrow. The painting on the left is a Madonna with child who is holding a goldfinch (a goldfinch is associated with Christ's Passion and represents here the foreknowledge Jesus and Mary had of the Crucifixion). Mary herself is probably a portrait of Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of king Henry VIII of England. Diptych from 1515-1518.

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