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Edelheere Triptych

106 cm x 97 cm
Inventory number: 
Museum M Leuven
Category A: Flemish primitives
15th century Christs Descents from the cross Portraits
Religious - New Testament

Around 1435, for the chapel of the Our-Blessed-Lady of Ginderbuyten in Leuven, Rogier van der Weyden painted his world-renowned Deposition from the Cross, which is preserved in the collections of the Museo del Prado in Madrid. The work was immediately viewed as a masterpiece and not long afterwards a copy of it was already made. This copy, the so-called Edelheere Triptych, from circa 1443, is the first of a whole series, made by an unknown painter on commission by Willem Edelheere for his chapel in the St. Peter’s church in Leuven. Between 2008 and 2009, M Leuven allowed the work to be restored and X-rayed by Hélène Dubois, a researcher affiliated with the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK). M Leuven devoted a consequent dossier exhibition to this as well.

On the left side panel kneels Willem Edelheere, the man in the red garment, who died in 1439 and was founder of the chapel in the choir of the St. Peter’s church in Leuven. His sons Willem, a priest just as his grandfather, and Jacob accompany him, as well as St. Jacob. On the juxtaposing side stand depicted his wife Aleydis Cappuyns, daughters Aleydis and Catharina, and the holy Aleydis. The coats of arms of the spouses are figured at the tops of the respective side panels. Saint John the Evangelist is depicted on the better-preserved right-side panel. He is supporting the swooning Mary.

The exceptional triptych suffered greatly in the course of the centuries and it is viewed as nearly a miracle that it has remained preserved. In the course of the 18th Century, it was moved to the dressing room of the canons, even serving as a clothing rack. On the radiographic recordings of the middle panel, the holes that were made by the clothing hooks can be still seen. The panels were moved in 1801 to the attic of the St. Peter’s church, until around 1825 when the triptych, along with timber planks, was offered up for sale at the flea market. Joseph-Pierre Geedts, the director then of the Leuven Academy for Fine Arts, discovered it by chance and immediately informed the deans that the paintings be taken back to the church.
Following a restoration, the panels received a place in subsequently the Sacraments Chapel, the seventh chapel, the chapel of St. Agatha and the ducal chapel. During WWII, it was locked up in the vaults of the National Bank in Brussels. Today, the Edelheere Triptych stands mounted in the fourth choir chapel from the northern transept, the chapel of the Holy Cross.