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Gerard David, An Augustinian Friar (?) Praying

Key facts
Full title An Augustinian Friar (?) Praying
Artist Gerard David
Artist dates active 1484; died 1523
Date made about 1515
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 34.2 × 26.8 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Queen Victoria at the Prince Consort's wish, 1863
Inventory number NG710
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
An Augustinian Friar (?) Praying
Gerard David

A man seems to be kneeling in a doorway or a window frame, hands folded in prayer. We don't know his identity, but he seems to be an Augustinian friar. Members of the Augustinian Order, which was founded in the thirteenth century, took vows of poverty and lived a monastic life. In public they wore a black cowl over a white tunic, like the one we see here.

This panel was clearly the right wing of a diptych or triptych (a painting in two or three parts, respectively), with the object of the friar’s devotions, most likely the Virgin and Child, shown on his left. The landscape behind him is a mix of fact and fantasy: the towers of two Bruges churches have been deposited in rolling countryside, rather than in the middle of a city.

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