NEW YORK, NY.- Christies
announced that a rare 15th century Flemish masterpiece, The Virgin and Child with Saints Thomas, John the Baptist, Jerome and Louis, attributed to the great Netherlandlish painter Hugo van der Goes, will highlight the Old Master Paintings sale on April 27 in New York. This rare survival is one of the most important 15th century Flemish paintings left in private hands and, remarkably, includes one of only a few examples of preparatory underdrawing on a Renaissance painting openly visible to the naked eye. In the early 18th century, the painted figures of the Virgin and Child as well as the body of Saint John the Baptist were removed, and the painting was transformed into a representation of The Marriage of Henry VII to Elizabeth of York. The painting was restored to its present form in the late 20th century, and has been on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art since 1998. With a distinguished provenance dating back to the early 18th century, the painting is estimated at $3-5 million.
Late 15th century: The altarpiece was likely painted for an English patron with French sympathies, (the inclusion of St. Louis of Toulouse is a clue), and would have been installed in a church.
At some point in the early 18th century, the Virgin and Child in the center of the composition and the figure of Saint John the Baptist were carefully stripped away and repainted with an architectural view of a church interior. At the same time the four saints (from left to right: Saint Thomas, John the Baptist, Jerome and Louis) were modified to become participants in a new scene representing the Marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.
1977-87: When the painting was conserved these alterations were removed, revealing the artists original composition. At that time, the art historian Claus Grimm identified this altarpiece as an early work by the great Netherlandish master, Hugo van der Goes. This attribution has now been endorsed by scholar Peter van den Brink.
In the 18th century, the painting was in the collection of Henrietta Louisa, Countess of Pomfret at Easton Neston, Northamptonshire. It was acquired in the estate sale of Lord Pomfret in 1754 by the famous writer and connoisseur, Horace Walpole, who kept the painting at Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, England. It next entered the Dent collection, at Sudley Castle in Gloucestershire, England, remaining there until it was acquired through an Old Master Paintings dealer by a private American collector, who loaned it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.