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Workshop of Quinten Massys, The Virgin standing in a Niche

Key facts
Full title The Virgin standing in a Niche
Artist Workshop of Quinten Massys
Artist dates 1465/6 - 1530
Series Panel from a Triptych
Date made about 1520?
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 114.8 × 35.2 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Henry Wagner, 1924
Inventory number NG3901
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin standing in a Niche
Workshop of Quinten Massys

The Virgin Mary stands in a stone niche, her eyes tear-stained and her brow furrowed. Her hands are folded in prayer. We can't tell if this is meant to be a depiction of a very skilfully polychromed statue or one of Mary herself.

This panel and Saint Luke painting the Virgin and Child are the back and front of a single painting. They were once the right wing of a triptych (a painting made of three parts), although they were painted by different artists. She is similar to various half-length images of the Virgin from the workshop of Quentin Massys, which were often paired with images of her son, Christ.

The missing left wing of the triptych probably showed a full-length figure of Christ after the Resurrection on its exterior, standing in a niche and raising his hand in blessing.

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Panel from a Triptych


These two paintings – Saint Luke painting the Virgin and Child and The Virgin standing in a Niche – are, in fact, the back and front of the same panel, which has been sawn through its thickness. They once formed the right wing of a triptych (a painting made in three parts). Although they have been cut on all four sides, not much has been lost and the triptych must have been tall and narrow in format. The centre panel probably showed the Virgin and Child enthroned, much as they appear in the picture Saint Luke is shown painting.

Differences in technique suggest they were by different painters, but both are close to the style of Massys and follow many of his technical procedures. They may well have been produced by two or more assistants in his workshop or by painters who trained there and continued to work together after leaving.