This intimate little panel from c. 1480 goes back to a lost painting by Rogier van der Weyden, one of the Flemish Primitives. This painting was meant for a private room, as can be deduced from its small size. It could well have been the middle panel of a triptych. Its high quality speaks clearly from the warm colours and the sophisticated rendition of the fabrics. The dominant colour, red, points ahead to the suffering of Christ. These elements justify an attribution to a painter in the direct entourage of van der Weyden himself.
The Virgin is shown looking at a carnation, with Jesus in her lap making a gesture of blessing. The carnation is the symbol of love and marriage. Here, the flower refers to the Passion, the ultimate proof of God's love for man. Pictures such as this aided their owners in their prayers by reminding them of the sacrifice made by Christ and the salvation this brought to mankind.
There were many variations on the Virgin and Child. There is evidence that the original painting, of which this Madonna with the Carnation is a 'copied' variation, showed St Mary full-length, sitting in front of a hedge of roses. In other pictures of Our Lady, the neutral background is replaced by a view of a landscape or a garden, referring to Eden. There can be angels or saints present. Some are diptychs or triptychs and include a portrait (or portraits) of the donor (or donors).Another Madonna in the Ghent collection is the one by the Master of Frankfurt.
SizeH: 34.9 cm
MediumOil on panel