14th - 16th Century Gallery - Painting & Decorative Arts Level 1, NGV International
This solemn depiction of the Virgin and Child is a fine example of the type of Marian painting favoured in the Burgundian Netherlands during the second half of the fifteenth century. Mary is depicted as a beautiful, yet humble, young woman with idealised facial features in a contemporary setting. She has the flowing golden hair described by the influential fourteenth-century visionary St Brigid. The Flemish painter Rogier van der Weyden (c.1399–1464) and his workshop was instrumental in popularising this type of Virgin and Child. The recumbent position of Christ in his loosened swaddling bands invokes later imagery of the lifeless Christ lying prone across his Mother’s lap.
European oak with trompe l’oeil marbled finish
The Frederick Pollak frame (see above image), formerly on The Virgin and Child, is a rendering of 15th century Flemish frames. It was made at the time of acquisition in 1954 but not ready for shipping and followed the painting to Melbourne. The frame uses gilding onto fabric, applied to timber to create an aged, cracked appearance in the surface. We have no record of the frame on the painting at the moment of acquisition.
A number of frames were made during the directorship of Daryl Lindsay by Frederick Pollak, including the frame for The banquet of Cleopatra by Giambatista Tiepolo.
The Pollak frame was made to fit the painting as restored with the image extended by about 10mm on all sides.The cleaning and restoration of the painting in 2004, brought the paint layer back to the original dimensions which meant a new frame needed to be constructed to fit the smaller, original image.
The new frame was copied from a similar frame from Portrait of a young woman by Hans Memling in the Sint-Janshospitaal, Bruges.
The choice of a trompe l’oeil marbled finish was made to provide some contrast to the black and gold frames which might otherwise start to look like a default frame choice for this part of the collection. The frame was made in 2005 using European oak and replicating the joinery of the 15th century.