Diptych of Christiaan de Hondt, abbott at Ter Duinen

Master of 1499
29 cm x 31 cm
Inventory number: 
Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp
Category A: Flemish primitives
15th century Descents from the cross Madonnas and Child

This work is a diptych of restricted measures. It has an intimate character, and was meant at some point to be hung where there were no visitors. On the right panel, the commissioner of the piece, Christiaan de Hondt is depicted. From 1495 until 1509, he was the Abbot of the Cistercian abbey Ter Duinen. He sits kneeling in his sleeping chamber. In the background, one can ascertain in a small diptych like this one, only on the left panel a Descent from the Cross is depicted. The left panel is a copy after Jan van Eyck, and shows Mary standing up in a church building. She fills the entire church with her presence. Christ is depicted very small and looks vulnerable. Mary is very richly clad and her crown is quite imposing. Furthermore, we see numerous symbols present. The ribbed vaulting is an indication of the drapery of Mary’s clothing and the rounded pleats hearken to the pillars. The vase with flowers emphasises her virginity. The door symbolises the gate to Heaven and indicates that Mary is an interlocutor: via her, God became man and vice versa can man enter the kingdom of God upon her word. The light coming in suggests that this is a heavenly scene: that the choir of the church is always directed to the East, the sun should then be in the North.