workshop of Jan Gossaert (Flemish, ca.1478–1532),
Madonna and Child with Saints Catherine and Agnes
oil on wood panels, 41 x 55 ½ in.; 104.14 x 140.97 cm
Gift of Mrs. Charles V. Hickox, 1958.361.A-C
A stellar work from Gossaert’s workshop, this triptych incorporates elements of the ornate and affected Flemish Mannerist style — wildly elaborate architecture, crowded space, smooth enamel-like finish, and exaggerated elegance. The theme, a traditional one, is the triumph of Christianity over paganism, as suggested by the flanking saints. Attributes identify them as the two most popular Roman martyrs in the Renaissance, Catherine (with the broken wheel of her torture) and Agnes (showing a ring to the Lamb of God). Because they had refused to renounce Christ and marry pagans, both were considered “brides” of Christ. They were killed but not vanquished by their adversaries.