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The Virgin standing in a Niche
Workshop of Quinten Massys

This work and Saint Luke painting the Virgin and Child are the outer and inner faces of the right shutter of an altarpiece. No other elements of this altarpiece are known but the central panel probably showed the Virgin and Child enthroned, as in Saint Luke’s picture. The lost left outer face probably represented a full-length figure of Christ.

The Virgin stands in a niche weeping and folding her hands in prayer. She is similar to the various half-length Virgins from the Massys workshop who are often paired with images of Christ.

Key facts
Artist Workshop of Quinten Massys
Artist dates 1465/6 - 1530
Full title The Virgin standing in a Niche
Group 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 in Gallery Not on display
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Panel from a Triptych

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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.

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