Oil painting on Baltic oak panel, painted in 1470 by the early Flemish painter of German origin, Hans Merling.
The painting shows 23 scenes from the Life of Christ combined into a single narrative composition without a dominant central scene: 19 episodes of the Passion of Christ, the Reurrection and three later appearances of the risen Christ (to Maria Magdalena on the road to Emmaus and in the Sea of Galilee.
The painting is commissioned by Tommaso Portinari, an Italian banker based in Bruges, who appears integrated into the portrait composition of the donor, kneeling in prayer in the lower left corner, with his recent wife, Maria Baroncelli, in a similar pose in the corner. lower right.
The painting is relatively small, 56.7 × 92.2 cm, and it is unlikely that it was an altarpiece.
It may have been destined for the Portinari chapel in the church of St. James in Bruges. 1501 is not listed among Portinari’s belongings after his death, and is believed to have been transferred from Bruges to Florence between 1510 and 1520.
1550 is first recorded in the collection of Cosme I Medici in Florence.
Then it goes to Pope Pius V, who gives it to a Dominican convent in Bosco, near Alessandria, where in 1796 it is hidden due to the Napoleonic invasion and donated to King Victor Emmanuel I in 1814, who gives it in 1832 to the Saudaba Gallery from Turin, where it continues.
The Passion scenes begin in the distance in the upper left with the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, pass through the city with the Last Supper and again outside the walls in the lower left with the Garden of Gethsemane , the scenes of the Passion continue through the center of the city (Trial of Pilate, the Flagellation of Jesus, Crowning with Thorns, Ecce Homo), and then the procession with the cross continues out of the city down to the right, up to the top for the crucifixion, and ending in the distance at the top right with the appearances at Emmaus and Galilee.
It includes seven of the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross, but adds several scenes before and after, and omits 7: Jesus being carried with his cross, the two occasions when Jesus falls carrying the cross, Jesus meeting his mother and Veronica drying the face of Jesus, Jesus meeting the daughters of Jerusalem, and Jesus being stripped of his clothes.
The scenes are distributed in and around an idealized Jerusalem, described as a medieval walled city with exotic towers crowned by domes, the way to hint at the East in Flemish art.
The high bird’s-eye viewpoint allows you to observe Calvary behind the city. Unusually, for paintings of this period, the luminosity through the painting is internal, associated with the rising sun, and compatible through the painting, with the areas more illuminated to the right and progressively more shaded towards the right and the sunset.
Memling used a similar narrative style for his later Advent and Triumph of Christ (also known as the Seven Joys of Mary; 1480), created for the altar of the Tanners Guild in the Church of Our Lady in Bruges but now in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich.