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Hans Memling, Saint Lawrence

Key facts
Full title Saint Lawrence
Artist Hans Memling
Artist dates active 1465; died 1494
Group Two Panels from a Triptych
Date made about 1480
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 57.5 × 17.1 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1865
Inventory number NG747.2
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Saint Lawrence
Hans Memling

Saint Lawrence is dressed as a deacon and holds a book and the grill on which he was martyred. This panel was part of a small triptych (a painting in three parts) made around 1480 for Benedetto Pagagnotti of Florence. The central panel shows the Virgin and Child and is now in the Uffizi, Florence, while the left wing, which depicts Saint John the Baptist, is also in the National Gallery’s collection.

The other figures in this triptych appear in a number of altarpieces by Hans Memling, but there was no prototype for Saint Lawrence. Unlike John the Baptist, the underdrawing for this figure is slight and has very few changes. Memling must have produced a preliminary design especially for this figure, which would have been approved by the commissioner and which would then have been copied carefully onto the panel, avoiding the need for extensive underdrawing.

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Two Panels from a Triptych


These panels were once the wings of a small triptych (a painting in three parts), the centre panel of which – The Virgin and Child with Two Angels – is now in the Uffizi, Florence. The altarpiece was demonstrably in Florence by the end of the fifteenth century, as its landscape backgrounds were frequently copied by Florentine artists of the time.

This composition, with the Virgin and Child enthroned and flanked by standing saints, was a popular product of Hans Memling’s workshop. The Virgin, Christ and angels in the Uffizi painting reappear in several other works by him, including The Donne Triptych (also in the National Gallery’s collection).

On the outside of the wings nine beautifully painted cranes stand in a dark landscape beneath the coat of arms and emblems of the Pagagnotti family. The triptych’s first owner was almost certainly the high-ranking bishop Benedetto Pagagnotti, who used the crane and compasses as his emblem.