©KMKG, Brussels

Saint George Altarpiece

Jan Borman I (?), Jan Borman II, 1493
Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels

The Saint George Altarpiece is ‘the altarpiece that keeps on giving’, every time you look at it. The almost two-and-a-half-meter-long altarpiece contains countless details and Borman’s technical mastery, which time and again coaxes near-impossible feats of representation from hard oak, and never ceases to amaze. All of this takes place while the principal character endures many tortures—seven to be exact—seemingly unmoved, as befits a good martyr. The drama of each scene takes place in a semi-circular, theater-like setting. As a result of this clever intervention, the complicated altarpiece scenes acquired clarity and a clear structure, making them more legible to believers at the time. This is precisely the importance of the Saint George Altarpiece in specific and the Borman dynasty in general. The Borman workshop revolutionized late Gothic Brabantine sculpture by combining exceptional carving skills with an innovative narrative style.

Marjan Debaene, Head of Collections, M Leuven, Louvain