de jonckheere old masters

Pieter Coecke van Aelst

The Madonna with the cushion

Panel: 24,4 x 20,4 cm


This Madonna with the cushion is a work that stands as a reference in the œuvre of Pieter Coecke van Aelst. A great orchestrator of princely pomp, translator of Vitruvius and Serlio, designer of cartoons for the prestigious Brussels tapestry workshops, this scholarly painter here offers a touching work of the finest quality.

The second half of the fifteenth century saw the arrival of a new type of client, contributing to the development of an iconography of devotional subjects. Much of the demand was for works for private devotion (devotio moderna). These were generally small paintings depicting the Virgin, Christ or the figures of saints. The painters focused intensely on the illusionism of the figures portrayed so that the viewers could model themselves after their example. This is evidenced by the narrow framing of the composition which may have been inspired by the Virgin with the cushion by Andrea Solario (1460 – 1524) currently at the Musée du Louvre. This delicate work adopts the typology favoured by Schongauer, Dürer, Rubens and even Roger van der Weyden. The Child rests on a sumptuous and comfortable brocaded cushion.

Particularly effective in this work is the delicacy of the tender gesture between the Virgin and the Christ child. Full of sweetness, it is skilfully enhanced by their curving arms, intertwined hands and the pure oval of the face of the Virgin, with the ample folds of her deep red cape protectively shielding the head of the Child. These two figures are harmoniously integrated in a verdant landscape, in which the artist demonstrates his masterful deployment of successive planes rising towards a blue sky. The refinement of the painterly execution of this charming panel is exceptional and bears witness to a painter at the height of his abilities, assimilating and integrating the most innovative trends in Renaissance art with virtuosity.

Provenance :
Private collection.