A Monk in Prayer with St. James, c. 1500-1525
Unknown (Flemish - 16th century)
oil and gold leaf on oak
53.2 x 41.1 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 14925)
This is likely the right half of a pair of panels; the other would have shown the Virgin and Child, the subject of the monk's gaze and prayers. Sitters were shown conventionally behind a sill, a device that emphasizes the junction between the painted scene and our world. Here it becomes a table top for the book protruding into our space; the artist struggles with the perspective. The style has its origins in Flemish art, but suggests a painter working at some distance from this tradition, attuned to the tastes of his provincial clients. He may have been active in Northern France; alternately, he may have been based in the North and have painted this for a Spanish patron. Both countries had strong ties, political and cultural, with Flanders.