Friday, September 13, 2013

Hans Memling: The Complete Works by Dirk de Vos

When Bonnie and I visited New York in May, we discovered the 15th century German painter Hans Memling. We had seen a few Memling paintings before at various museums around the country, but it seemed as though his works were everywhere in New York. We saw our first in the Frick Collection and then a couple very prominently displayed in John Pierpont Morgan's personal study at the Morgan Library. Later we found that the Metropolitan Museum of Art owns eight! Liking the richly-colored portraits particularly, I became a fan and made a mental note to borrow a book on Memling when I was home.

Well, more than three months later, I finally borrowed Hans Memling: The Complete Works by Dirk de Vos, a big beautiful book including a catalog with 93 works attributed to Memling. 93 is a substantial number, considering that the paintings have survived over 500 years, but I will argue the output is even greater, as many are diptychs, triptychs, and other multi-paneled works. Many of these served as portable alters or stations for devotion. Sometimes, there were paintings on two sides of folding panels, perhaps showing religious scenes on the inner panels and the donor, his family, and some saints on the outer panels. Many wealth patrons contracted for Memling's work.

An appendix shows that there are other works that might be Memling's, and a second shows works that have now been proven not to be his. I also found a city by city list of museums containing Memling works interesting; I have another reason for some travel. As beautiful as the paintings are in Hans Memling: The Complete Works, they have to be seen to be fully appreciated.

There are not many books on Memling to be found in our area libraries. He is not one of the artists that is often mentioned these days. I am grateful that the Hinsdale Public Library had this one.

Vos, Dirk de. Hans Memling: The Complete Works. Fonds Mercator Paribus, 1994. 431p. ISBN 9789061533115.

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