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Jan Provoost (c. 1465-1529)

Triptych: The Virgin and Child with Saints and Donors c.1525

RCIN 405816

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Born in Mons in the mid-fifteenth century and originally trained by his father, Jan Provoost the Elder, Provoost is thought to have completed his training in the workshop of the painter-illuminator, Simon Marmion (c.1425-89) in Valenciennes. He married Ma

Triptych: Virgin and Child with Saints and Donors ©

Provoost was an influential artist predominantly active in Bruges. In the central panel of this triptych the Virgin presses her right breast to direct milk towards St Bernard. According to a legend, he was praying before a statue of the Virgin when drops of milk fell from the statue’s breast onto his lips, identifying her as the mother both of Christ and mankind. On the wings two unknown donors kneel with their patron saints: St John the Baptist holding a lamb on the left and St Martha holding a perforated skimmer on the right.

The reverse of the wings when closed would form one composition illustrating the vanity of pursuing worldly riches. A banker balances his accounts with his left hand and cradles a skull with his right. Behind him is a list of currency conversions. Sketchy underdrawing is now more visible. Originally the banker wore spectacles symbolising moral shortsightedness.