Robert Campin and workshop: The Merode Triptych (1427-1432)


(Metropolitan museum of art, New York, USA)

A painting by the Flemish artist Robert Campin (1378 – 1444) and his workshop. This small triptych was for commissioned for domestic use. in the middle you see the moment of the annunciation: the archangel Gabriel has just entered a furnished room and is about to tell Mary she will be the mother of Jesus. Mary (dressed in a red gown rather than the usual blue) herself is reading from of book of hours (a book for lay people who wished to incorporate elements of monasticism into their devotional life). Barely visible above the head of Gabriel are golden rays pouring in through the left oculus which has a Christ Child which is holding a cross - the Holy Spirit. On the table is another book of hours, a white lily in a Tuscan earthenware jug (this represents Mary's virginity and purity) and a fading candle (perhaps another representation of the Holy Spirit). The two side panels have been added later, probably as a request of the donor who is represented on the left panel. These donors are the Cologne-born Jewish merchant Peter Engelbrecht and his wife Margarete Scrynmaker. They are kneeling before an opened door which leads to the central panel. Also visible in the left panel is an attendant who is waiting near an opened door which shows a street scene. the right panel shows saint Jozef who is shown at work, carving a mousetrap (this represents an imagined but literal capture of the Devil, said to have held a humankind in ransom because of the sin of Adam and Eve). Why saint Jozef is included here in unknown as the saints on these altarpieces were usually the patron saints of the donors. Visible through the window in the right panel is another street scene, perhaps a Flemish city. Painting from 1427-1432.

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