Workshop of Pieter Coecke van Aalst, The Crucifixion: Central Panel
The Crucifixion Triptych
Two donors – husband and wife – kneel in the wings of this triptych (a painting in three parts) and gaze at the Crucifixion in the central panel. The Annunciation – the moment the Virgin Mary was told she would bear a child – was originally painted in shades of grey on the outside of the wings, but the fronts and backs are now physically separate.
The style of the painting associates it with the work of Bernaert van Orley and especially his pupil, Pieter Coecke van Aalst. Coecke seems to have run a large workshop and several artists of limited ability seem to have been involved in this painting. This image of the Crucifixion was evidently a popular composition: several versions of it survive.
Two donors – husband and wife – kneel in the wings of this triptych, gazing at the Crucifixion in the central panel. The Annunciation was originally painted in grisaille on the outside of the left and right wings, but the fronts and backs are now physically separate.
The style of the painting links it with the work of Bernaert van Orley, and especially with that of his pupil Pieter Coecke van Aalst. Like the figures in the central Crucifixion, Coecke’s compositions are self-consciously staged, as if his people are being directed by choreographers. This was evidently a popular composition: a triptych with different donors was in a St Petersburg collection in the nineteenth century, and three versions of the centre panel survive in European collections. All parts of the triptych were probably made shortly after Coecke became a master of the Antwerp Guild in 1527–8.
We don't know who the donors are, although coats of arms hang on the sides of their prayer desks (the woman’s is completely erased). The man might a member of the Bollis family, possibly Willem Bollis, who in 1519 was a member of the court of the Prince-Bishop of Liège at Sint-Truiden. Coecke’s workshop certainly produced paintings for patrons in Sint-Truiden. They worked for two abbots of St Trudo, the great Benedictine monastery there, painting an Annunciation (Hasselt, Bisdom) for Willem van Brussel, abbot from 1516 to 1532, and producing a series of painted panels to complete a carved altarpiece of the Life and Passion of Christ for his successor, Joris Sarens, in 1534.
The centre panel and the fronts of the wings were transferred to canvas in the nineteenth century. The Annunciation is still on the original oak boards, thinned where they were sawn from the fronts.