Collection Online
The Man of Sorrows in the arms of the Virgin

The Man of Sorrows in the arms of the Virgin
(1475) {or (1479)}

oil and gold leaf on wood panel
27.4 × 19.9 cm
inscribed in gold paint c.l.: 147(...illeg.)
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1924
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Gallery location
14th - 16th Century Gallery - Painting & Decorative Arts
Level 1, NGV International
Originally from a small town near Frankfurt-am-Main, Hans Memling became a citizen of Bruges in the Burgundian Netherlands in 1465 and remained there until his death. This panel represents Christ as an image of pity. Displaying the wounds of his Passion, yet open-eyed and thus ‘alive’, Jesus is shown cradled in the arms of his grieving mother. Fervent prayer in front of harrowing images of this type was considered to have the power to hasten the soul’s passage through the pains of Purgatory.


The former framing of Memling’s The Man of Sorrows in the arms of the Virgin, 1475, acquired in 1924, used an early sixteenth century Venetian style, pastiglia frame which had been re-surfaced in 1981.
Both stylistically and in format the frame was not appropriate to the painting.
A preliminary report on the Memling in 1993, recommended a new frame which reflected Flemish frames of the fifteenth century.
The first reproduction Flemish frame was made for the painting in 1994.
A second reproduction was made in 2014 based on the frame from Portrait of a young woman by Hans Memling in the Sint-Janshospitaal, Bruges.
The frame was assembled from oak using mortise and tenon joints and fabricated oak dowels.
The frame was gilded with 23.5carat gold leaf, painted and distressed.

From 1968 through to 1999 small paintings like this were displayed behind toughened glass positioned with bolts over a pulpwood backing. The framed painting was attached with screws to the backing, which was painted to match the wall. Split battens were used to locate the system on the wall.
In 2001 these paintings were fitted into sealed systems using an “L” section blackwood outer frame, laminated optically coated glass in the front and Perspex in the back. The framed painting was attached to the Perspex with screws. The Perspex allowed the wall colour to show through on display.

These display systems were used for a number of small paintings:
3079-4 Marmion The Virgin and Child
1541-4 Italy Profile portrait of a lady
1275-3 Follower of van Eyck The Madonna and Child

Reproduction - crafted by the NGV

oak, gold leaf and distemper paint