Pre-Eyckiaans Ursulaschrijn

This is a Flemish Masterpiece



Period and date

15de eeuw
(circa 1400 - circa 1415)

This house-shaped shrine dates from the period around 1400, before the painting of the Flemish Primitives. Only about thirty panel paintings have survived from the period 1400–1430, the so-called ‘pre-Eyckian’ period, among them tabernacles and shrines. This is one of them. The shrine exudes an endearing naivety, which means that, quite possibly, a monk made and painted this reliquary. Undoubtedly this is the modest forerunner of Hans Memling’s richly decorated St Ursula Shrine. In 1489, the relics were transferred from this small shrine to Memling’s reliquary during a ceremony. Note Saint Ursula sheltering the virgins under her finely decorated cloak.

The choice of the saints depicted is not coincidental. They were all invoked in the context of sickness or death or they are patrons of the hospital community. The only exception is Saint Cecilia, who creates sacred music with the organ. The use of the halo in the image and the gilding of the background are typical features for the pre-Eyckian period, both in painting and in miniature art.


This shrine has been painted over no less than six times since its creation. During restoration, these layers were removed again and the original was restored as much as possible. The areas of overpainting greatly changed the appearance of the saints’ garments and for a long time hid some beautiful details and lesser-known attributes, especially in the case of the figure of John the Baptist. During the research for the restoration, orange engravings also emerged everywhere in the red background.


geheel, height: 19 cm
geheel, width: 32 cm
geheel, depth: 16.3 cm


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