• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1986

    Important Old Master Paintings Part I And Part II

    15 April 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 6

    Pieter Coecke Van Aelst Aelst 1502-1550 Brussels

    The Virgin and Child with Saint John

    Price Realised  


    Pieter Coecke Van Aelst Aelst 1502-1550 Brussels
    The Virgin and Child with Saint John
    oil on panel, shaped top
    35 3/8 x 23 in. 90 x 58.5 cm.

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Pieter Coecke van Aelst was a Southern Netherlandish artist who traveled to Italy and Constantinople, ending his career as court painter to Emperor Charles V in Brussels. His training in the various media of sculpture, printmaking and architecture is frequently expressed in his paintings. The present work, originally the central panel of a winged triptych, represents the Virgin and Child with Saint John, an angel descending from above to crown Mary as Queen of Heaven. The arrangement of the central figures is unusual within the artist's known oeuvre, with other versions of the Holy Family instead including Saint Joseph. The figure of Saint John, proffering a gift of fruit, is similar to the figure of an angel bearing fruit in the central panel of a triptych sold at Christie's London (23 April 1993, lot 29, £177,500 = $274,938). Also typical is the inclusion of an extensive landscape background with additional tiny scenes from the life of Christ, in this instance the journey to Bethlehem and the Adoration of the Shepherds. It is interesting to note the artist's use of the parapet, a motif possibly adopted from a design by Jan van Dornicke. It relates the viewer's space to that of the figures and increases the sense of spatial realism, particularly with the elegant detail of the Child's drapery spilling over the edge of the parapet.