Hugo Van Der Goes’s Portinari Altarpiece

Early Netherlandish painting

One of Hugo van der Goes's most famous painting is, the Portinari Altarpiece. Portinari Altarpiece is said to be one of the last great Flemish altarpieces where symbolism is used significantly (Jen). The use of lots of symbolism is very common in the early 15th century (Jen). Hugo van der Goes broke the tradition of idealizing noble images of the past. He launched elements of realism into his altarpieces. The triptych altarpiece center panel measures 8'3 ½ "x 10' and the side panels measures 8'3 ½ "x 4'7 ½ " each (Stokstad p. 635).

This extremely large altarpiece was commissioned by Tommaso Portinari who lived in Bruges, Italy, and managed the Medici bank (Galleria). Tommaso Portinari and his family are portrayed on the side panels (Britannica). Tommaso Portinari and his sons Anonio and Pigello are shown kneeling in the left panel, with Tommaso Portinari and his son Anonio's name saints standing larger then life behind them (Galleria). His wife Maria and daughter Marghertia are also kneeling with their name saints Mary Magdalen and Margaret on the right panel (Galleria).

The Virgin Mary is placed in the center of the painting (Stokstad p. 634). She is kneeling on the ground with her hands folded in front of her. Her head is slightly tilted to the left and her eyes are almost closed. We can imply that she is in some kind of deep reflection, paying homage to the Christ Child who is lying nude on the ground in front of her. His nudity is a sign of his humbleness (Jen). Radiating out from under him while he is lying on the ground are beams of goldish light. With the exception of a few flying angles who are forming a circle around Christ, he is the center of attention for most of the figures in the painting. Almost all the figures that are focused on Christ have their folded hands and the same clam almost distressing facial expression as Mary.

At the far left painted, as an old man with gray messy hair, long beard, and wrinkled skin on his hands and face is...
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