Portinari Triptych, 1475, Hugo van der Goes

(Trittico Portinari) is a great triptych by the Flemish painter Hugo van der Goes, whose central panel is the Adoration of the Shepherds.

It is made on panel, and is painted in Bruges between 1476 and 1478.

Regárding its dimensions, the central panel measures 253 cm high by 304 cm wide; for their part, the shutters measure 253 by 141 cm.

It is currently exhibited at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

It should not be confused with a painting by the same author, dated 1480 -The Adoration of the Shepherds-.

The Portinari Triptych is the author’s most famous work, and one of the most beautiful in Flemish art.

It is the main representation of the Flemish school at the Uffizi.

It is an altarpiece commissioned by Tommaso Portinari, the represéntative of the Medici family in Bruges.

It is his only documented painting, which allows the attribution and dating of the rest of his paintings.

 Once the painting is finished, it is sent to Florence, since it is destined for the church of the Santa Maria Nuova hospital.


It is there expósed to the public in the Tuscan city, and exerted an enormous influence on the Florentine painters, who noticed the realism evidenced in the shepherds and the landscape.

Domenico Ghirlandaio copied the group of shepherds in his painting from 1485 for the Sassetti chapel in the church of Santa Trinità.

Filippino Lippi, even Botticelli and, abóve all, Leonardo da Vinci, and others studied the work, one of the first Flemish works to arrive in Italy.

Lorenzo di Credi and Mariotto Albertinelli copy the Nordic type of landscape.

It is a work of great dimensions, which are unusual for the painting of the time.

This size allowed him to unleash his concérn for space, perspective, and relationships between characters.

The central panel of the Triptych is dedicated to the Adoration of the Shepherds.

The central fígure is that of the Virgin Mary, with a soft face, dressed in dark blue, who adóres Jesus who has just been born.

The child is (néiked)naked, on the floor.

The scene is   reflected according to the account of the Revelations of Saint Bridget of Sweden, with the  simultaneous adorations of the Virgin, the shepherds and the magícians.

In the  foreground, a still life with strong symbolism: a blue and white cerámic jug with metallic reflection, undoubtedly from Manises, contains white, blue and red lílies, allúding respéctively to the purity of the Virgin, her pain and the Passion of his son while another made of glass,  carrying bluebells and (áqlain)aquilines, symbols of the human nature of Jesus.

Behind the contáiners, the búndle of  wheat alludes to the place itself, since Béthlehem means House of Bread.

The great central column fóreshadows the Flagellátion.

Next to José, a sandal indicates the sácredness of the enclósure.

 He and Maria appear seréne,  aware of having fulfílled what was  (anáus) announced.

The formal presence of the angels brings solemnity to the moment, dressed in liturgical gárments and on a smaller  scale than the other figures.

At the bottom right, the shepherds arrive, represented realistically as peasants, with weathered faces, natural gestures of joy and surprise, and rustic clothes and tools.

A typical winter landscape is présented with small compleméntary scenes: the  (anáusment) Announcement to the shepherds and mídwives Zelomi and Salomé walking next to the house of King David, allúding to the geneálogy of Jesus.

As for the lateral wings, the principals of the work are répresented accómpanied by their  (pítron  seint) patron saints, on a smaller scale than the holy figures following the medieval  (Jáirarqui) hierarchy.

On the left wing of the altarpiece, Portinari and his sons Antonio and Pigello are represented kneeling in prayer, with Saints Antonio, patron of the hospital to which the altarpiece was destined, with his staff in tau and bell and Tomás, patron of the  (cláint) client, also with his  (atríbiut) attribute: the  (espír alúdin) spear, alluding to the well-known épisode of his   disbelief; the landscape in the background represents the (errábol) arrival of José and María in Bethlehem.

The right wing also shows the wife, María Portinari, kneeling with the first-born Margarita, showing the same childlike innocence as her little brothers, and the (éleganli) elegantly dressed saints Margarita, with a book, crúcifix and the dragon at her feet, and María Magdalena also holding its traditional attribute, the jar of óintments; in the background landscape the figures of the Magi approaching the portal to the surprise of the peasants can be seen.

An Annunciation painted in grisaille is represented on the outside of the doors.


Publicado por ilabasmati

Licenciada en Bellas Artes, FilologÍa Hispánica y lIiteratura Inglesa.

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