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Christ Giving His Blessing

Christ Giving His Blessing, 1478

Hans Memling
Netherlandish, c.1430/40-1494
Oil on oak panel
comp: 14-3/8 x 10-1/2 in. (36.5 x 26.7 cm); panel: 15-1/8 x 11-1/8 in. (38.4 x 28.3 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

Hans Memling was the leading painter in Bruges during the last quarter of the fifteenth century. His Christ Giving His Blessing recalls an iconographic type found in early Christian and Byzantine sacred icons, but echoes the later compositional types of Rogier van der Weyden, in whose workshop Memling presumably worked before settling in Bruges. Unlike the work of his predecessors, however, Memling's portrait of Christ is neither severe nor characterized by tragic pathos. In form and feeling, it presages Italian portraiture from the following decade: the search for clarity and order, the monumental effect achieved by filling the frame with Christ's head and shoulders, and the close-up view of the delicately modeled face against a neutral background. The gentle spirit and grace of the Redeemer, presented in fully human terms in this compelling devotional image, marks Memling’s debt to Rogier, but also his status as someone who transformed religious and portrait imagery throughout Europe from that point forward.

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