SIMON BENING (1483-1561)
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus in the Passion of Christ (129 x 85 mm.)
Single leaf from the Prayerbook of the Enriquez de Ribera family
Flanders, probably Bruges c. 1508-1509
Newly discovered miniature - indeed like a diminutive panel painting - by the last and one of the greatest Flemish illuminators, Simon Bening, whose work was praised by contemporary international artists, chroniclers and historians alike during his lifetime. This leaf comes from the Enriquez de Ribera Prayerbook, dismantled in the nineteenth century, when four miniatures from it were in the collection of Count Paul Durrieu, Curator of the Louvre Museum. Of the eleven sister miniatures known today, a number are in museums, including the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Bening's considerable skill as a colorist and as an artist who could portray deep emotions (note the grief-stricken Mary Magdalene) are especially evident in this fine miniature. While a Deposition from the Cross as well as a Lamentation like in the lower compartments are frequently found in Passion Cycles that became so popular in the late Middle Ages and especially in Flanders, the scenes in the upper panels are rarely found: Joseph of Arimathea (?) kneeling in front of Pilate to ask for the body of Christ with Nicodemus standing next to Pilate, and Nicodemus and Joseph on their way to Calvary equipped with myrrh and aloe and white linnen.