Tag Archives: Netherlandish Painting

Simon Bening’s Virgin and Child

Virgin and Child, Attributed to Simon Bening, Oil on wood, 10 x 8 1/4 in. (25.4 x 21 cm), ca. 1520, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Virgin and Child, Attributed to Simon Bening, Oil on wood, 10 x 8 1/4 in. (25.4 x 21 cm), ca. 1520, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Measuring at just under the size of a piece of letter paper, this magic little painting sits quietly and unassumingly in Gallery 640 in the European Paintings Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The work is attributed to Simon Bening, the great Netherlandish miniaturist and son of illuminator, Alexander Bening. He is most widely known for creating books of hours for royal patrons and rulers.

One of the most remarkable qualities of this finely painted Virgin and Child is its plainness. Though her hair is golden, the mother is mostly unadorned. The child’s hair is also golden, but their are no halos. The scene is one of quiet, stillness, and knowing. The mother’s face, though somewhat idealized, is pensive, almost distracted, while the child turns his gaze outward with a glint of providence in his eye.

The landscape behind is meticulous and simple with each leaf singular and distinct. In the distance, a small cottage with its lone figure sits by a stream where two swans drift. The figures are seated on what could be a simple garden wall in any village.

The child extends his spoon toward us, and the accompanying text for the painting notes that…

…Mary is presented as the very model of a nurturing mother. A stream of milk flows from her breast to the lips of the Child, who turns toward the viewer and gestures with a spoon, linking physical nourishment with the spiritual nourishment he offers.

Other works by Simon Bening in the Met’s online collection can be found here…

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