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Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen presents unknown pre-Eyckian panel

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen presents an unknown pre-Eyckian panel triptych that dates back some six centuries is to appear in it’s exhibition ‘The Road to Van Eyck’ opening 13 October.

Bruges (?), Triptych with the Embalming of the Body of Christ, Year: circa 1410-1420, Oak panel, Middle panel: 31 x 31.9 x 1.9 cm; side panels: 31 x 12.8 cm, Private collection

‘The Road to Van Eyck’ exhibition, which includes more than 90 masterpieces of Netherlandish, French and German origin from circa 1400. The promised tripartite panel, which depicts the embalming of the body of Christ, flanked by portrayals of St Anthony and of John the Baptist on the side panels, is being loaned to Rotterdam from an Italian private collection for the exhibition. ‘It is highly unusual that a totally unknown painting from this period should crop up,’ says curator Friso Lammertse. ‘It is, moreover, of an exceptionally high quality. The right-hand panel with John the Baptist ranks among the most beautiful Netherlandish paintings from circa 1400 that is still extant.’.

The embalming of Christ in the triptych’s central panel is a scene that is rarely depicted. According to international art experts the work was painted circa 1410 by an unknown artist in Bruges. There are just 20 to 30 extant paintings that were executed in the Netherlands during this period. Comparison with pre-Eyckian drawings and with miniatures from breviaries, as well as the way in which the embalming is depicted, have left international art experts with little doubt about the work’s provenance. The triptych may have been created for a hospital, as St Anthony is called on to intercede for the sick and was the patron saint of many infirmaries. The painting is in good overall condition, but the image of Christ has suffered, probably because of the faithful constantly touching it in reverence.

‘The Road to Van Eyck’ sheds light on how and by whom Jan van Eyck (Maaseik?, c. 1390–Bruges 1441) was inspired to develop his revolutionary, realistic style. Priceless and fragile paintings, sculptures, precious metalwork, miniatures and drawings by the most important European artists, with masters such as Jean Malouel and the Master of Saint Veronica alongside works by Jan van Eyck himself, are being brought together in Rotterdam from collections across the USA and Europe. This is the first and, in view of the fragility of these works, probably the last time that an exhibition on this subject will be staged. The presentation includes five paintings by Van Eyck, as well as several miniatures and drawings that are attributed to him. One of the works comes from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, which is the only institution in the Netherlands to boast a ‘Van Eyck’ in its collection. Another work from our own collection is the famous Norfolk Triptych, a pivotal work from the pre-Eyckian period. –