Adriaen Isenbrant: Triptych of the Litany of Our Lady

Presentation: 14 March - 31 December 2020

The imagery in this triptych appeals to the imagination. The side panels depict two familiar scenes: the one on the left the Flight to Egypt, the one on the right the Holy Family resting during their Flight. The image in the middle panel is complex. It represents the Blessed Virgin, surrounded by fifteen Marian emblems, each with an inscription in Latin. These are texts from Old Testament wisdom literature that refer directly or indirectly to the Immaculate Conception, as Our Lady was born free from original sin.

Adriaen Isenbrant (ca. 1490-1551), Triptych of the Litany of Our Lady, ca.1520-30
The Phoebus Foundation, Antwerp

This image of the Madonna of the Litany was in fashion for just a short period. In 1502, the printer Thielman I Kerver published the first printed version of this composition in Paris. It figures in a Latin-language book of hours, illustrated with wood cuts attributed to the workshop of Jean d’Ypres. This theme is also found in stone bas-reliefs, wood sculptures and stained glass windows, mainly in the north of France and the Southern Netherlands. This painted version from ca. 1520-1530 was created by the Bruges artist Adriaen Isenbrant.

The triptych is accompanied by a book of hours of Gillet Hardouyn (active ca. 1510-20) from the collection of the Phoebus Foundation. The art works are part of the exhibition The Bold and the Beautiful. In Flemish Portraits, which will take place from 14 March to 31 December 2020 in Museum Snijders&Rockox House, Keizerskapel, Saint Charles Borromeo Church and Vleeshuis Museum.