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Hans Memling, A Young Man at Prayer

Key facts
Full title A Young Man at Prayer
Artist Hans Memling
Artist dates active 1465; died 1494
Date made mid 1470s
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 39 × 25.4 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2594
Location Room 27
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Young Man at Prayer
Hans Memling

A pale young man, hands folded in prayer, is engaged in private devotions. This small painting was clearly the left wing of a diptych (a painting made of two parts) or triptych (a painting made of three parts). The object of his prayer would have been shown to his right, on a panel attached to this one with hinges. There is nothing to tell us who the sitter was, though he was evidently very wealthy. His dress and haircut suggest a date of around 1475.

Technical analysis shows us that there was underdrawing for the face and neck, probably indicating roughly where the head was to be. The final positions of the face, hands and book had all been fixed before the artist began to paint; few changes were made at the painting stage. The delicacy of detail and the skill of handling, particularly noticeable in the wet-in-wet passages, is typical of Memling.

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