Prayers and Portraits

Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych

John Oliver Hand, Catherine A. Metzger, and Ron Spronk

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The diptych––comprising two hinged panels that can be opened and closed like a book––was prevalent in Netherlandish art and depicted subjects ranging from secular portraiture to religious personages and stories. This lavishly illustrated book, the first ever to examine this painting format, examines approximately forty Netherlandish diptychs from the 15th and 16th centuries. Featuring magnificent works by Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling, and Hugo van der Goes, among others, the book covers a wide variety of topics, including painting techniques, workshop practice, and the art market in the Netherlands of the time.
With fascinating discussions on each of the featured paintings, Prayers and Portraits reunites a number of diptychs that have long been separated. Essays  examine the works in the context of contemporary texts and religious practices in northern Europe, incorporating new technical information and research. They also offer invaluable insights into the social status and aspirations of the sitters.
The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, in association with the Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge.

John Oliver Hand is Curator of Northern Renaissance Paintings and Catherine A. Metzger is Senior Conservator of Paintings at the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Ron Spronk is Associate Curator for Research at the Straus Center for Conservation, Harvard University Art Museums.


Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp (March 2 – May 27, 2007)

National Gallery of Art, Washington (November 12, 2006 – February 4, 2007)

"In [this] hefty catalog every work comes accompanied by its own tell-all biography, as revealing as any Hollywood exposé."—Miles Unger, New York Times

"Diptychs, as their name suggests, have two leaves, like a book, each with two sides: you are supposed to open them out, and look at them in the round.  But too often both art galleries and art books take them apart and show you just one bit. As an antidote, this marvellous catalogue presents 40 two-leaf pictures, as far as possible in their entirety...The illustrations are admirable, the idea is terrific. This is one of the best books of the season."---Martin Gayford, The Sunday Telegraph

“This magnificently illustrated, hardcover catalogue . . . features exquisite examples of the work of such masters as Hugo van der Goes and Hans Memling, and other lesser known but still exceptional artists. The scholarly yet accessible essays illuminate not only the works under consideration, but the whole art scene in the Netherlands of that period.”—Toronto Globe and Mail (Gift Books)

"Beautiful. . . . Highly recommeded. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through professionals."—Choice

Winner of the 2006 George Wittenborn Memorial Award sponsored by the Art Libraries Society of North America
ISBN: 9780300121551
Publication Date: November 28, 2006
Publishing Partner: Published in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington
352 pages, 9 1/2 x 11
90 b/w + 238 color illus.
Hans Holbein

Paintings, Prints and Reception

Edited by Mark Roskill and John Oliver Hand; Contributors:

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Essays in Context

Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych

Edited by John Oliver Hand and Ron Spronk

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Hieronymus Bosch, Painter and Draughtsman

Technical Studies

Luuk Hoogstede, Ron Spronk, Robert G.

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Hieronymus Bosch, Painter and Draughtsman

Catalogue Raisonné

Matthijs Ilsink, Jos Koldeweij, Ron Spronk, Luuk Hoogstede,

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Michel Sittow

Estonian Painter at the Courts of Renaissance Europe

John Oliver Hand and Greta Koppel; With Till-Holger Borcher

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National Gallery of Art

Master Paintings from the Collection

John Oliver Hand; With a foreword by Earl A. Powell III

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