Virgin and Child Enthroned (van der Weyden)
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The ''Virgin and Child Enthroned'' (or the ''Thyssen Madonna'' or ''Madonna in an Aedicula'') is a small oil on oak panel painting attributed to the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden dating from about 1430–32. It is closely related to his ''The Madonna Standing'' completed during the same period. It may have formed the left hand wing of a later dismantled diptych, perhaps with the ''Saint George and the Dragon'' now in Washington. It shows considerable influence from Robert Campin, under whom van der Weyden trained, notably in the architecture of the niche, the facial type, exposed breast and hair of the Virgin, and the use of painted grisaille figures representing sculptures.
The image is highly compact from a temporal point of view, and contains imagery of prophets, the Annunciation to Mary, the infant Christ, his nursing, resurrection and Mary's eventual crowning in heaven. The work is generally accepted as the earliest extant work by van der Weyden, and is one of three works attributed to him that shows the Virgin and Child enclosed in a niche. As an early work, it betrays its influences, notably from Campin and Jan van Eyck; especially noticeable are motifs borrowed from the latter's ''Ghent Altarpiece''.
Some art historians have speculated that the panel was the left hand wing of a dismantled diptych, with the Washington ''Saint George and the Dragon'' of 1432–35 offered as the most likely opposite wing.〔 In that work, St. George, facing inwards and to the right, slays the dragon before a decidedly unexcited Libyan princess. Although the pairing might seem unlikely and incongruous, the artist's ''Madonna Standing'' is widely thought to have been attached with the ''St. Catherine of Alexandria'' in Vienna.〔Although the St. Catherine panel is usually attributed to a workshop member, based design by van der Weyden. See Panofsky, 251〕
Shirley Blum suggests that van der Weyden was establishing a juxtaposition between the otherworldly setting of the Madonna and Child and the earthly setting and historical dress of the saints. In both ancillary panels, the saints face inwards and away from the right hand painting. In both, they are positioned within fully realised landscapes, setting them in an earthly realm. In contrast, in both left hand panels, the Madonna and Child are positioned frontally (although eye contact is avoided) and isolated within cold grisaille architectural spaces. Blum describes the couplings as serving to position each saint "as a 'living witness' to the static, eternal presence of the Virgin and Child." She goes on to state that, "Only in such early works do we find this kind of obvious solution. By the time of ''the Descent'' and the ''Prado Madonna'', Van der Weyden has already worked out a far more complex and effective means of mixing temporal and non-temporal effects".〔Blum, 121〕
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