Bernard van Orley was the best known of the Brussels artists of the sixteenth century. It is said that he went to Italy, where he became a friend of Raphael. The productions of his maturity display a strong preference for Italianized compositions and details.
This is a work of his youth, painted, Max J. Friedlander and Hippolyte Fierens Gevaert believe, in Brussels before 1514. It certainly shows the local influences, that of Massys particularly, and seems to us, perhaps on that account, better than his more ambitious compositions. It is a picture of the Virgin fondling the nude Child by a fountain on the terrace of a palace of strange architecture debased Gothic combined with fantastic Renaissance. Some Flemish lady of rank cuddling her baby whom she has just bathed, one would say, were it not for the two little child angels nearby, who sing intently out of an antiphonary Iaid on a bench in front of them.
The setting is designed to combine all the delights which the artist could imagine as belonging to a noble country residence. The green terrace dotted with wild flowers, on which the figures are placed, is confined by masonry carefully joined with lead and a brick wall coped with stone, where peacocks strut. The fountain, which is of bronze, throws a jet of water into a pool at the left. There is a paved court to the palace and beyond is a. Gothic wall. Trees are at the left and in the distance is a precipitous hill with two groups of buildings joined by a drawbridge. Two angelic figures appear in the clouds and a hunter with his dog trudges up the hill.
This picture was sold at Frankfort in 1901 under the name of Dürer to J. Emden of Hamburg, out of whose collection it was bought indirectly by Mr. Altman.