Seligenstadt 1433 - Bruges 1494
oil on panel
164 x 212 cm
Inventory number 778 - 780
Against a golden background bordered by dark clouds, Christ is surrounded by musician angels.
His collar bears the words 'Agyos Otheos' or Holy God. The three gems on his brooch refer to the
Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The crown and the crystal globe with a cross
identify him as the ruler of the Christian kingdom on earth and in heaven. Around Christ, several
angels are singing and playing music. Their instruments are typical 15th century and include a
psaltery on the left and a vielle on the right.
German-born artist Hans Memling, who painted this Christ with Singing and Music-making Angels, spent most of his career in Bruges. Consequently, his style and technique are entirely congruent with 15th-century Southern Netherlandish painting. Today Hans Memling is quite rightly regarded as one of the great Flemish Primitives.
The only surviving panels
Despite their impressive dimensions, these three panels are just part of a once huge altarpiece for the high altar of the monastery church of Santa Maria la Real in the Spanish town of Nájera. It was one of the most important commissions that Memling ever received. Unfortunately, the other panels of the monumental altarpiece have been lost.
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp has, since 2001, been meticulously restoring this masterpiece under the watchful eye of the museum visitors. The project is due to be completed during the imminent closure for renovation of the museum building.