Triptych of John the Baptist and John the Evangelist

This is a Flemish Masterpiece


Hans Memling (schilder)

Period and date

15de eeuw
(exact 1479)

More than 500 years ago, the sisters and brothers of the hospital commissioned Hans Memling to create this imposing triptych, an altarpiece for the hospital's church. They can be seen on the exterior panels and in the center. On the central panel, between the columns, is the wooden crane of Bruges used to lift wine barrels from boats. Taxes on wine imports, were for the hospital. Memling also painted the patron saints and patrons of the hospital: St. John the Baptist with lamb and St. John the Evangelist with the chalice. On the right, behind a column, a friar in long black habit.


Scrolling on your smartphone, advertising billboards on your way to work, evenings in front of the television: every day we see hundreds of images and, by now, have grown accustomed to them. But this was not the case in the 15th century. A monumental altarpiece, such as the St John Altarpiece, must have made a big impression back then. Such works of art were made to stand on an altar in a church, and unlike how they are arranged today, they were often closed. People usually only saw the outside, which was often painted in grisaille (shades of grey). The altarpieces were only opened on special feast days, revealing a life-like depiction full of colours. Those who experienced the transition from black-and-white to colour television can probably imagine how this must have felt for the average churchgoer. Literally as if a world opened up before them …


tekst (onderaan): . OPVS. IOHANNIS. MEMLING. ANNO. M. CCCC. LXXIX. 1479
linkerluik, height: 193.2 cm
linkerluik, width: 97.1 cm
middenluik, height: 193.5 cm
middenluik, width: 194.7 cm
rechterluik, height: 193.3 cm
rechterluik, width: 97.3 cm


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Musea Brugge is committed to making its data available as usable open data. Images of works of art which are not subject to copyright restrictions are therefore published under the Creative Commons Zero licence. These may be used freely.

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