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Pieter Coecke Van Aelst Aelst 1502-1550 Brussels
Pieter Coecke Van Aelst Aelst 1502-1550 Brussels

The Virgin and Child with Saint John

Details
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.

Lot Essay

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.
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