SWEET AND ENCHANTING BY A CLOSE CONTEMPORARY OF THE PAINTER HANS MEMLING
Book of Hours (Use of Rome)
Illuminated manuscript, on parchment, in Latin and Flemish
Southern Netherlands, Bruges (Ghistelles?), c. 1460s
13 large miniatures from the Workshop of Willem Vrelant
The Dutch illuminator Willem Vrelant (d. 1482) and the German painter Hans Memling (d. 1494) have much in common. Foreigners who came to Bruges for the opportunities the city presented, they enjoyed parallel careers, and they both worked for patrician families as well as the influential Dukes of Burgundy, who frequented Bruges. They certainly knew each other. Memling even painted an altarpiece “on assignment” from Vrelant. The small-scale paintings in this intimate Book of Hours display Memling’s influence. Noting Memling’s sweetness, the great art historian Erwin Panofsky compared him to the composer Felix Mendelssohn who “occasionally enchants, never offends, and never overwhelms.” One might say the same of Willem Vrelant.