Two fragments from the altarpiece 'La Présentation de la Vierge au temple'

Maître à la Vue de Sainte-Gudule
ca. 1480-1500

Acquired by the Léon Courtin-Marcelle Bouché Fund, research on these two altarpiece fragments has confirmed a link with La Présentation de la Vierge au temple, a work at the Royal Fine Arts Museums. These fragments are of great interest for the collections of the Royal Fine Arts Museums, to which they have been entrusted, from both a historical and an iconographic point of view. They were unknown prior to their appearance on the art market in 2015.

The fragments come from a single altarpiece which was dismantled and cut into pieces, although the whereabouts of the central piece are unknown. Now, like a puzzle, the Présentation de la Vierge au temple has been partially reconstituted. The artist, an anonymous painter conventionally known as Maître à la Vue de Sainte-Gudule, was a Brussels artist working at the end of the 15th century, who followed in the footsteps of the famous artist Rogier van der Weyden. He directed an important workshop that produced numerous painted shutters for altarpiece with a sculpted central part. In the 15th century, Brussels-made sculpted altarpieces with painted shutters were exported all over Europe.

One of the two fragments acquired by the Léon Courtin-Marcelle Bouché Fund depicts (partially) Saint Ursula on the back and, on the obverse, the right hand part of the Presentation. The other fragment of the door shows Saint Simon Stock on the back and, on the obverse, The Visitation.

The story of the original work, about which we know very little, still holds some secrets. Originally, the work was without doubt a triptych, in which the central part represented the Annunciation, the episode that came between the Presentation in the temple and the Visitation. However, it could be that these two fragments come from a larger work. This would be in line with the fashion of the period when painters in Brussels produced large narrative cycles. For most of the time, the altarpiece would remain closed and so the exposed backs of the shutters suffered rather more damage than the painted interiors. This, unfortunately, is the case for the image of Saint Simon Stock receiving the scapular from the hands of the Virgin Mary. However, restoration will enable this very rare image to be saved, which is really important because it is the oldest known representation of Simon Stock, the Carmelite Prior, in 15th century Flemish painting. During the 16th and 17th centuries, this iconography became much more common.

More information about the Léon Courtin-Marcelle Bouché Fund

Type: 
Altarpiece
Material / technique: 
Oak
Dimensions: 
103.5 x 69 cm and 95.5 x 173 cm
Type of acquisition: 
Léon Courtin-Marcelle Bouché Fund acquisition
Year of acquisition: 
2015
Depository institution: 
Royal Fine Arts Museums, Brussels