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Bartholomeus Bruyn the Elder, The Virgin, Saints and a Holy Woman

Key facts
Full title The Virgin, Saint John, Saint Mary Magdalene and a Holy Woman
Artist Bartholomeus Bruyn the Elder
Artist dates 1492/5 - 1555
Date made probably 1530-40
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 67.9 × 48.3 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Henry Wagner, 1924
Inventory number NG3903
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin, Saints and a Holy Woman
Bartholomeus Bruyn the Elder

This panel was most probably the right-hand wing of a diptych (a painting made up of two panels), and was probably made in Cologne in the 1530s. The location of the left-hand panel is unknown, but it most probably showed the dead Christ.

The figures huddle together and look in the direction of the left panel, weeping at the sight. Their grief is dramatic – their faces anguished, their tears like glass beads on their cheeks. The rippling folds of their brightly coloured clothing intensify the emotion.

The woman at the front is the Virgin Mary, wearing her traditional blue mantle, which here has fur lining at the cuffs. The woman to her left is Mary Magdalene, identifiable by her long, loose hair. Like the holy woman wearing the cap behind her, Mary Magdalene is dressed in elaborate clothing more contemporary to the picture – her billowing sleeve is patterned with silk brocade. The man is Saint John the Evangelist, who is known as the ‘beloved disciple’ and to whom Christ, at the Crucifixion, entrusted his mother.

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