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Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen announces old master acquisition

Submitted by on July 18, 2013 – 8:12 am

The 15-century painting, Triptych with the Embalming of the Body of Christ, has been purchased following extensive research and with generous funding from important private and public foundations. From today the artwork has a permanent place in the museum and the national collection.

Bruges (?), Triptych with the Embalming of the Body of Christ, c.1410-1420. Collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Bruges (?), Triptych with the Embalming of the Body of Christ, c.1410-1420. Collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen


A masterpiece of panel painting from the period before Jan van Eyck, a triptych showing the Embalming of the Body of Christ, has today been added to the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. The painting has been acquired thanks to a ‘leading gift’ from the Rembrandt Association and the Mondriaan Fund. Generous contributions have also come from the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds (Breeman Talle Fonds), VSBfonds, SNS REAAL Fonds, the BankGiro Lottery and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Foundation. Scholarly art-historical research by Boijmans curator Friso Lammertse and Stephan Kemperdick, curator at the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, led to the discovery of the previously unknown painting in a private collection. Lammertse: ‘It is exceptional that a totally unknown painting from this period should come to light, and even more extraordinary that it should be available for acquisition by the museum. The right-hand panel with Saint John the Baptist is among the most beautiful surviving Netherlandish paintings from around 1400.’

The central panel of the triptych shows the embalming of the dead body of Christ, a rarely depicted scene. According to an international group of experts, the work was painted by an unknown master around 1410 in Bruges. Only 20-30 paintings made in this period in the Netherlands have survived. Through comparison with drawings and manuscripts from the period before Van Eyck, and the manner in which the embalming is depicted, the experts have no doubts about the origin of the painting. The depiction in the left-hand panel of Saint Anthony, the patron saint of the sick, suggests that the triptych may have been commissioned by a hospital. The painting is in good condition; only the figure of Christ has suffered some damage, possibly from being touched by the faithful. www.boijmans.nl

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