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Home > Current events > Memling And The Portrait



Three major museums join their collections for the first exhibition dedicated to the works by a master of portrait painting

Hans Memling, Portrait of a young man, The Metopolitan Museum, New York.
Robert Lehman Collection.



Djivers 12


Corpus Bruges 05
Tel. +32 50 44 20 02


Every day except Monday
from 9,30 am to 5 pm


Full price: 8 €
Concessions: 5 € Under 20, over 60,
groups and professionals
Free: Brugeois and under 13


Till-Holger Borchert


Artistic Coordinateur Corpus Bruges 05 : Dr. Manfred SELINK
Communication: Manon Billiet
Tel.: +32 50 44 20 02 - Fax +32 50 34 20 27

Together with the Frick Collection in New York and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, the Groeninge Museum has set up the first exhibition totally dedicated to Memling’s portraits. Only recently have we perceived the influence Hans Memling had on European portrait artists at the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th centuries. By showing the novelty and the exceptional skill that emanates from his portraits, the exhibition organized in 1994 in Bruges to mark the 500th anniversary of his death was at the origin of the reevaluation of an aspect of his art that had remained neglected a little too long.

An original cooperation formula

The great fragility of the paintings represented a major difficulty in organizing a traveling exhibition of this scope. It brought about an original cooperation formula, in which each museum sheds light on a specific aspect of Memling’s art in painting portraits based on the orientation and the content of its own collections. The heart of the exhibition is made up by a group of paintings by Memling mostly from the three museums, which each will complete locally. Though on one same theme, each exhibit is different and complements the other two.

Great know-how

Flemish painters had the habit of including the donators in the religious context of the painting. Memling was the greatest artist working in this format and the portraits of his sponsors occupied a dominating place. But his portraits per se are a separate group altogether. He applied formulas invented by other Flemish painters before him, to which he added new elements. He gave the settings -backgrounds, interiors and landscapes –a soberness that allowed him to focus all the attention on the subject’s face –generally painted in a bust with an object in the hand– and he had a special talent to render hands resting on an invisible rim or on the frame. The characters a well as the landscapes in all of his works are testimony of his great know-how.

Illustration: Hans Memling, Portrait of an old woman
Museum of Fine Art, Houston

Memling seen from three different angles

The richness and the diversity of its collection allowed the Thyssen-Bornmisza Museum to bring forward the influence Memling had on Renaissance painting in Italy and in Northern Europe. The Frick Collection on the other hand will look more particularly at Memling’s artistic evolution through his portraits from 1460 to 1490, in which any innovation had to take into consideration the taste of a rather conservative clientele. Due to the wealth of their patrimony, the Municipal Museums of Bruges will show for their part the contrast that exists between Memling’s free portraits and those that correspond to commissions, and will illustrate the specific role the portrait played in the development of the art of the Flemish Primitives. The exhibition includes a small but very representative selection of Flemish portraits in its beginning, by artists such as Jan van Eyck, Robert Campin or Van der Weyden’s workshop.


Catalogue of the exhibition in Dutch, French, English and German. Texts by Till-Holger Borchert, Lorne Campbell, Paula Nuttall and Maryan W. Ainswortl, 192 pages, ill. 24 x 30.5 cm. Ludion Publishing House (Gent and Amsterdam) 2005, paperback: 30 € hardback: 40 €.

The exhibition presented in Madrid at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, from 14 February to 15 March 2005, and at the Groeninge Museum in Bruges, until 4 September 2005, will be at the Frick Collection in New York from 6 October to 31 December 2005.

The exhibition presented in Madrid at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum from 14 February to 15 March 2005 and at the Groeninge Museum in Bruges until 4 September 2005 will be at the Frick Collection in New York from 12 October to 31 December 2005.

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