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Holy Face

Holy Face

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This tiny manuscript illumination, a sympathetic portrait of Christ, belongs to the tradition of religious images known as acheiropoita, images believed to have been created miraculously. It is one of a group of representations of the head of Christ, called the Holy Face, that have their roots in Byzantine legend and in the legend of Saint Veronica. The story of Veronica became enormously popular in Europe in the thirteenth century, and medieval pilgrims traveled to Saint Peter's in Rome to see what they believed to be the actual veil of St. Veronica (known as the sudarium), impressed with the image of Christ's face.Holy Face miniatures were particularly popular in Books of Hours made in Bruges toward the end of the fifteenth century and into the beginning of the sixteenth. Although there are no signed miniatures by Gerard David, nor indeed any panel paintings today that bear his signature, there is a strong possibility that this miniature was one of several illuminations by David excised from a Book of Hours, dated 1486 and now in the collection of the Escorial, Spain. The volume is missing a number of miniatures that were cut out at an unknown date, among them an image of the Holy Face that accompanies the prayer or hymn "Salva sancta facies" in the front of the book. The dimensions, proportions, and even the traces of the arched top of the Lehman illumination match the corresponding features of the few miniatures in the Escorial volume that have been attributed to David.
Gerard David (Netherlandish, Oudewater ca. 1455–1523 Bruges)

The Dutch School painters can be dated as Early Netherlandish (1400–1500), Dutch Renaissance (1500–1584), and, later, Dutch Golden Age painting in the United Provinces. The detailed realism of Early Netherlandish painting, led by Robert Campin and Jan van Eyck in the 1420s and 1430s, is today generally considered to be the beginning of the early Northern Renaissance in painting. This style was greatly respected in Italy, but there was little reciprocal influence on the North until nearly the end of the 15th century. Despite frequent cultural and artistic exchange, the Antwerp Mannerists (1500–1530) were unrelated to Italian Mannerism. Among notable northern painters were highly individualistic artists such as Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder who developed styles that were imitated by many subsequent generations. In the 16th century northern painters increasingly traveled to Italy, so the art of Michelangelo and Raphael and the late Renaissance Mannerism had a great impact on their work. Hieronymus Bosch and Geertgen tot Sint Jans are well-known examples of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Dutch painters. In the northern Netherlands, the Reformation brought religious painting almost completely to an end. Portrait painting was slow to spread from the elite to new riches. By the end of the 16th century, artists such as Karel van Mander and Hendrik Goltzius collected in Haarlem in a brief but intense phase of Northern Mannerism that also spread to Flanders. Between 1605 and 1635 over 100,000 paintings were produced in Haarlem. Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer, Jacob van Ruisdael, and Jan Steen are just a few names form the seventeenth century.



1485 - 1489


The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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