© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Paired icons, or images, of the Man of Sorrows and the Mater Dolorosa appeared as early as the Byzantine era. In the fifteenth century, this pairing, which encouraged the beholder to empathize with both the Passion of Christ and the human suffering of his mother, was popular north of the Alps, possibly because it responded to the religious reform movement known as the Devotio Moderna. Although these two panels most likely left the artist’s workshop together, technical evidence reveals differences in their preparation and execution. The image of Christ (2001.121), which could stand on its own, may have been made independently of its companion (2001.171), which could have been painted to form this pair at the behest of a particular patron. None of the surviving pairings of this kind from the Bouts workshop have original hinging or painted backs, indicating that the panels were meant to be hung on a wall and not joined together as a folding diptych.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
2001.171
People
Aelbert Bouts, Netherlandish (c. 1451/54 - 1549)
Title
The Mater Dolorosa
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
painting
Date
mid 1490s
Places
Creation Place: Europe, Netherlands
Culture
Netherlandish
Location
Level 2, Room 2500, European Art, 13th–16th century, Art and Image in Europe
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Oil on oak panel
Dimensions
37.9 x 27 cm (14 15/16 x 10 5/8 in.)
frame: 46 x 36.5 cm (18 1/8 x 14 3/8 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, The Kate, Maurice R. and Melvin R. Seiden Special Purchase Fund in honor of Marjorie B. Cohn
Accession Year
2001
Object Number
2001.171
Division
European and American Art
Contact
am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu
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Descriptions

Label Text: Ancient to Modern , written 2012
Paired icons, or images, of the Man of Sorrows and the Mater Dolorosa appeared as early as the Byzantine era. In the fifteenth century, this pairing, which forces the beholder to empathize with both the passion of Christ and the human suffering of his mother, was popular north of the Alps, possibly because it responded to the religious practices of the movement known as the Devotio Moderna. Although these panels most likely left the artist’s workshop together, technical evidence reveals differences in their preparation and execution. The image of Christ, which could stand on its own, may have been made independently of its companion, which could have been painted to accommodate the wishes of a patron. None of the surviving pairings of this kind from the Bouts workshop have original hinging or painted backs, indicating that the panels were meant to be hung on a wall and not hinged together as folding diptychs.

Publication History

Ron Spronk, "Three Boutsian Paintings in the Fogg Art Museum: Technical Examinations and Art Historical Implications", Bouts Studies: Proceedings of the International Colloquium [1998], ed. Bert Cardon, Uitgeverij Peeters (Leuven and Sterling, Virginia, 2001), pp. 431-449 repr. in color p. 433

Peter Klein, "Dendrochronological Analyses of Netherlandish Paintings", Recent Developments in the Technical Examination of Early Netherlandish Painting, ed. Molly Faries, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge MA, 2003), pp. 65-81, p. 80, in table 5

John Oliver Hand and Ron Spronk, ed., Essays in Context: Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych, Harvard University Art Museums/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2006), p. 244 cat. no. 4

John Oliver Hand, Catherine A. Metzger, and Ron Spronk, Prayers and Portraits: Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych, exh. cat., Yale University Press (New Haven, CT, and London, 2006), no. 4, pp. 50-55, repr. in color; IR repr. as fig. 2B, detail repr. as fig. 3, p. 55

Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 62, repr.

Bernard Descheemaeker, Bernard Descheemaeker Works of Art, exh. cat. (Antwerp, 2010), related to cat. no. 11

Peter van den Brink, Dagmar Preising, and Michel Polfer, ed., Blut und Tränen: Albrecht Bouts und das Antlitz der Passion, exh. cat., Verlag Schnell & Steiner (Regensburg, 2016), p. 33, repr. p. 36, fig. 7, repr. p. 37, fig. 8 (infrared image), under cat. no. 23, pp. 108-109, fig. 1

Exhibition History

Prayers & Portraits: Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 11/12/2006 - 02/04/2007; Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, 03/03/2007 - 05/27/2007

Ancient to Modern, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 06/01/2013

32Q: 2500 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu