THE DEATH OF THE VIRGIN The Virgin with clasped hands lies on a bed, with her feet towards us. Christ descends from above, followed by a host of angels stretching out their hands as though to receive His mother’s soul. On the left side of the bed St. Peter is taking a lighted taper from another Apostle, while the other ten surround the bed, some kneeling, some standing, and some sitting.
THE PORTINARI ALTAR-PIECE Three large panels painted for the Church of Santa Maria Nuova, Florence; commissioned by Thomas Portinari, a rich Florentine merchant, agent for the Medicis at Bruges, whose ancestor, Folco Portinari, founder of the Hospital, was father of Dante’s Beatrice. This is the only painting by Van der Goes of which the authenticity is historically established, and it is of greater importance than any of those attributed to him.
Centre Panel (The Nativity). A range of Gothic buildings extends from the left foreground to the right background. On the extreme left, beside a large pillar, is St. Joseph in a long red robe with a broad black collar, his hands joined in adoration. In the centre, a little farther back, the Virgin, bareheaded, in a voluminous violet robe, kneels adoring the Child, who lies on the ground on some straw in front of her to the right. Still farther back, on the extreme right, are two kneeling shepherds and a third standing behind them. In the centre foreground are a truss of straw and two vases of flowers, on the left of which are two little kneeling angels in bluish robes, and on the right a group of five more in rich vestments. Other angels are flying overhead, and two are kneeling in the background between the Virgin and the shepherds.
Left Wing.-On the left Signora Portinari is kneeling, with her little daughter behind her. On the right, farther back, their two patron saints, St. Mary Magdalene with a jar of perfumes, and St. Margaret standing on a dragon, holding a book and a cross. Landscape background, with some horsemen, and a huntsman asking his way from a peasant.
Right Wing.-Tommaso Portinari kneeling on the right with his two sons behind him. Farther back on the left, St. Matthew leaning on a lance, and St. Anthony with his belt and chaplet in his hands. Landscape background with a house, and a man and woman walking.