Retables were usually placed behind an altar in a church. This example in tower form is very rare. It was perhaps part of a larger retable. A figure of Mary may have stood in the now empty niche.

 

Folding panels

On the folding panels, scenes are painted against a background of gold leaf. They show episodes from Christ’s infancy: his birth, the adoration of the magi, the presentation in the temple and the slaughter of the innocents, along with the flight of Jesus and his parents to Egypt. When you close the panels, the retable looks like a narrow, red painted shrine with a slender spire.

 

Virtuoso

The artist was a virtuoso. He was familiar with the art of the Southern Netherlands of his time, the late 14th century – a few decades before Jan van Eyck. The characters are dynamic and the emotions are visible.

 

Specifications

  • Southern Netherlandish
  • Tower Retable with Infancy Cycle, late 14th century
  • Oak, 137 x 47.5 cm Panels each 58 x 11.2 and half-panels each 58 x 6.3 cm