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Workshop of Dirk Bouts, 'Mater Dolorosa', probably about 1470-5

Key facts
Full title Mater Dolorosa
Artist Workshop of Dirk Bouts
Artist dates 1400? - 1475
Series Diptych: Christ and the Virgin
Date made probably about 1470-5
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 36.8 × 27.9 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Queen Victoria at the Prince Consort's wish, 1863
Inventory number NG711
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Mater Dolorosa
Workshop of Dirk Bouts

This small painting of the sorrowing Virgin once went with another painting in our collection, Christ Crowned with Thorns. They originally made up a diptych, a folding painting in two parts. It was probably intended for private prayer: the Virgin’s grief was intended to inspire empathy in the viewer, who was encouraged, like her, to meditate upon the suffering of Christ at the Passion (his torture and crucifixion). Many versions of this image survive. This one was probably made in Bouts’s workshop towards the end of his life.

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Diptych: Christ and the Virgin


These two panels were once a diptych (a painting in two parts) showing Christ crowned with thorns and his mother, the Virgin, grieving (known as the Mater Dolorosa). Both the Virgin and Christ are shown close up, almost like portraits. Both are red-eyed and weeping, drawing them together emotionally. The frames (now lost) and figures both seem to cast shadows on the gold backgrounds.

Numerous versions of these paintings survive, most of rather poor quality. A more or less identical diptych (Louvre, Paris) was apparently painted in the same workshop, from tracings of the same pattern drawings.