Jan Provost

The Virgin Mary in Glory

The Virgin Mary in Glory
(click image to zoom-in)
Author: Jan Provost
Painting, Oil on canvas, 203x151 cm
Origin: Netherlands, 1524

The Virgin stands on a half-moon, surrounded by a golden aureole, tenderly pressing the Christ Child to her breast. In the clouds above are God the Father and God the Hold Ghost. The angels playing the viol and lute glorify Mary as the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven, and the young Christ as the future Messiah, Saviour of the human race. The glorification of Christ through music and singing derives from the Psalms, in which King David called on all to praise the Lord. In the foreground are prophets and sybils predicting the coming of the Mother of God and Christ. In the hands of the Persian Sibyl is a scroll with the inscription "Cremium virginis erit salus gentium" . To her sides are the psalmist David, playing his harp, and the ancient Roman emperor Augustus, who had a vision of the Virgin and Child which was explained to him by the Tiburtine Sibyl. The unification in one composition of Christian, Old Testament and Classical images, the realistic treatment of the landscape, the modern costume and musical instruments, all firmly place this altarpiece in the Renaissance period.

One of Jan Provoost's best works, the painting was produced in 1524 for the Cathedral of St Donatian in Bruges, but it was bricked up during religious unrest in the 1560s to save it from the iconoclasts and immediately forgotten. It was discovered only in 1796 when the cathedral was destroyed by the French, and it entered the collection of King Willem II of the Netherlands.

Personage: Madonna and Child
Source of entry: Collection of William II, The Hague, 1850
Theme: The Bible and Christianity

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