Hans Memling ca. 1433 – 1494

Sacra Conversazione

oil on panel (174 × 174 cm) — 1479 Museum Memling Museum, St.John's Hospital, Bruges

Hans Memling biography

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This scene, with Mary and child surrounded by various saints, is called a Sacra Conversazione, Italian for 'sacred conversation'.

In the background are the two Johns: the Baptist to the left and the Evangelist to the right. The woman to the left is St Catherine, with her common attributes: a sword and a wheel, the instruments of her martyrdom. To the right is St Barbara, with the tower in which she was once locked.

The child puts a ring on Catherine's finger. This 'mystical marriage of Catherine' symbolizes her devotion to him.

This is the central panel of a triptych. The left panel shows John the Baptist, the right panel shows John the Evangelist.

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