© Foto: Gemäldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz. Fotograf/in: Jörg P. Anders (CC BY-NC-SA)

The Monforte Altarpiece

Hugo van der Goes, ca. 1470 — 1475
Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin

The Adoration of the Magi is unique in many respects. For one thing, the sheer size of the panel surpasses all earlier surviving Netherlandish paintings. The work can be considered the forerunner of monumental paintings with nearly life-size figures that would be created in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Equally unique and impressive is the color sensitivity of the painting. Rather than using the traditional palette of some local colors, Hugo van der Goes worked with a rich palette and subtle variations and gradations of tones: red, for instance, varies from scarlet, strong purple, rust red, mauve and violet to rosé. Further, he made his figures appear not only large, but monumental in a completely new way. This was achieved by presenting the protagonists in extreme close-up. While their feet and all the objects in the lower third of the picture are shown from above, the upper portions of the standing figures are shown in a view from below. This is simply unique in Netherlandish painting of the fifteenth century.

Katrin Dyballa, Curator, Bucerius Kunst Forum in Hamburg, Germany

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