Man of Sorrows

Albrecht Bouts

Thanks to the bequest of Father Ghislain De Jaeger, the King Baudouin Foundation has acquired a prestigious painting made by Albrecht Bouts at the end of the Middle Ages. This Flemish Primitive work has been entrusted to the museums of Bruges.

The previous owner of Christ de douleur (Man of Sorrows) by Albrecht Bouts (1452–1549) was Father Ghislain De Jaeger, who had inherited the painting from his father, Dr. De Jaeger. The latter, who worked as an ophthalmologist at the Saint-Jean Hospital in Bruges, presided for many years over the Friends of Bruges Museums association (Vrienden van Musea Brugge). After Father De Jaeger’s death in 2021, the painting was bequeathed to the King Baudouin Foundation, with the request that it be entrusted to, and exhibited at, the Groeninge Museum of Bruges, in memory of his father.

Christ de douleur

The Ecce homo paintings representing Christ as the Man of Sorrows created by Albrecht Bouts and his studio, constitute the most important collection of works of this type originating from the Southern Netherlands in the 15th and 16th centuries. The paintings, including this one, show that the workshop was specialised in the mass production of devotional works. The work depicts Christ wearing his crown of thorns against a golden background. His fists are tied and in his right hand he holds a bulrush, symbolising the humiliation to which he is subjected. The red cape symbolises his agony. Christ’s head is slightly tilted, his eyes drowning in tears of sorrow and his mouth slightly open as he bears his painful ordeal with dignity. In its original frame, the upper part of the painting is semi-circular in shape, a format often used for objects of private devotion. Under the influence of Modern Devotion, a religious movement founded during the 14th century, the subject of the Man of Sorrows became extremely popular. “For the followers of Modern Devotion, intimate communion with life and, above all, with Christ’s suffering, was of the utmost importance”, says Anne Van Oosterwijk, Director of the Museums of Bruges. It was precisely because believers could identify with representations of Christ’s suffering that these paintings were so prized as objects for private devotion.

Albrecht Bouts

Albert Brouts, a painter of religious subjects from Leuven, was most probably trained in the workshop of his father, Dirk Bouts. In 1476, following his father’s death, Albert Brouts appears to have left Leuven to continue his training with Hugo van der Goes, a painter who seems to have greatly influenced him.

The choice of the Groeninge Museum

The painting has now become part of the collection of Flemish Primitive works at the Groeninge Museum in Bruges, which previously did not have any works representing important artists working outside Bruges in the 15th and 16th centuries. Moreover, Albrecht Bouts was probably a student of Hugo van der Goes, whose Death of the Virgin is one of the Groeninge Museum’s masterpieces. And finally, this work of private devotion perfectly illustrates a less typical but more intimate aspect of the Flemish Primitives’ works.

Material / technique: 
Oil on wood
48 x 33,2 cm
Type of acquisition: 
Bequest of Father Ghislain De Jaeger
Year of acquisition: 
Depository institution: 
Groeningemuseum, Bruges