Bio: Hans Memling

Special thanks to the Microsoft Corporation for permission to use following biographical information from Microsoft® Encarta '97:

Hans Memling was a Flemish painter of religious works and portraits characterized by their gentle, sweet tranquility.

Memling was born in Seligenstadt, near Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and became a citizen of Bruges in 1465. Little is known of his training, although it appears he was strongly influenced by the style of the Flemish master Rogier van der Weyden, especially in his love of delicate detail and his fine precise drawing. Memling's work consists primarily of altarpieces, devotional diptychs and triptychs, and portraits. His compositions representing the Madonna in sumptuous backgrounds often include representations of saints, portraits of donors, or detailed landscapes. His style changed little throughout most of his career; typical works such as the Donne Triptych, named also The Virgin and the Child with Saints and Donors (1475, National Gallery, London), and the Marriage of Saint Catherine (1479, Memling Museum, Bruges) are characterized by an overall delicacy and harmony that result from a symmetrically balanced composition; clear, even lighting; and a masterly deployment of colors ranging from rich golds, reds, and blues to subtle halftones. His figures radiate an attitude of quiet devotion rather than the intense fervor found in the works of his contemporaries.

As a portraitist, Memling produced idealized representations of his subjects, such as the figure of Tommaso Portinari, part of the Portinari Triptych (1470?, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City). In another vein, he produced the unique Seven Joys of the Virgin (1480?, Alte Pinakothek, Munich), a panoramic landscape made up of an iridescent assemblage of towns and castles, hills and mountains, and ports and ships. Late in his career, under the influence of the art of the Italian Renaissance, his style became more vigorous. Such an unrestrained work as Bathsheba at the Bath (1485?, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart), which portrays a female nude in a realistic bathhouse scene, has a subject and a setting unusual in 15th-century Flemish painting.

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