Saturday, April 23, 2016

Last Minute Suggestion For This Weekend

Jan van Eyck, Crucifixion and Last Judgment Diptych
Flemish, c. 1440-1441
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
(This image shows the panels in their original
frames.  For this exhibition the frames are shown
I've written a good deal about sheep in recent weeks and, alas, I am feeling very sheepish right now.  I've been suggesting the Metropolitan Museum's current exhibition of the famous diptych of the Crucifixion and Last Judgment by Jan van Eyck over in the right hand column of this blog.  However, I have only gone to see it twice myself, once right after it opened and again today.  It will close in two days, alas.  That's why I feel sheepish.

The day that I first went to see it I was in something of a hurry and the room was crowded.  That is my excuse for missing something very important.  In addition to important new information regarding an almost obliterated Biblical inscription in  both Latin and Flemish that once appeared on the original frames (now separately shown for this exhibition) the exhibition points to a strong link between these two panels and the Eucharist.
Attributed to the Machecho Master (possibly Oudot Matuchet)
Sacred Bleeding Host of Dijon
French (Dijon), c. 1530s
New York, Private Collection

On display (which I totally missed in my first visit) is a page from an illuminated manuscript (no details about the manuscript from which it came are given) which depicts the Sacred Bleeding Host of Dijon, about which I wrote several years ago in an article on Eucharistic miracles.1  

Jan van Eyck, Last Judgment panel
Flemish, c.1440-1441
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
(Note the way in which the position of
Christ's arms and the support on which He
sits echoes the image that was seen in the
Sacred Bleeding Host of Dijon)

The current exhibition suggests strongly that the image of Christ in Majesty that was purportedly seen in this particular bleeding Host is the source of the image of Christ in Majesty in the panel of the Last Judgment from this diptych.

Further, evidence has been found for possible original hardware on both panels, suggesting that the panels were originally hinged.  Now, the possible configuration of hinged panels could be as 1) wings on either side of a central panel, forming a triptych, of which the central panel has been lost or 2)as the panels of a diptych, as they now appear, or 3) as the doors of a tabernacle, the recepticle for the reservation of the Hosts that are the Body of Christ.  The latter suggestion is supported by the fact that the panels were actually used as the doors of a tabernacle during part of their history.  And the connection to the image of the Sacred Bleeding Host of Dijon, which was given to Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy in 1433, patron of Jan van Eyck, just a few years before the panels were painted is highly suggestive.  It might even suggest that these panels once formed part of the tablernacle in which the Sacred Bleeding Host may have been kept when not exposed to the faithful in the chapel specially built for it by the Duke.

All of this makes for an extremely interesting and possibly very important little exhibition.  Unfortunately, it's last day will be Sunday, April 24.  So, if you are in the New York area and are interested in seeing it, set your sights this weekend on the Met's Gallery 624 in the European Paintings section, at the top of the main staircase.

© M. Duffy, 2016

1.  See  and  for more information about the phenomenon of bleeding Hosts as depicted in manuscript illuminations.

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