Rogier van der Weyden - The Madonna of St. Luke

by Claire Deuticke


Lovingly the woman looks at the naked child in her arm. She brings her unclothed breast towards the child to nourish it. The rest of her body is wrapped in a magnificent dark blue robe. She squats on a wooden prayer bench, under a red and gold patterned canopy. The child in her arms has her hands and feet stretched out. It looks at the mother with an alert gaze. Opposite them kneels a man in a red robe embroidered with fur on the arms. He wears a blue headdress. In his hand he holds a drawing pad and pencil. His gaze rests on the woman and child, he seems to be portraying them. They are in a room open to the outside, from which one looks into a wide landscape. The floor is decorated with geometrically patterned tiles. The open exit of the room is decorated by two columns, above which there is a circular window.

In the background is a couple that seems to be peering into the distance from a bridge. Towards the horizon meanders a river surrounded by mountains, houses and castles. On the right edge of the painting, if you look closely, you can see the passage to another room. On a pedestal lie open books. Under them, well hidden, is the head of a bull. This stands in Christianity symbolically for St. Luke, who is represented here as a painter. The woman and child are a representation of the so-called "Maria Lactans" - the nursing mother of God and the baby Jesus.


The painting is one of many so-called "St. Luke paintings", which usually depict St. Luke the Evangelist with a pencil and Mary and the Child Jesus sitting as a model. To ensure identity, the heraldic animal of Luke is also illustrated - the bull


Rogier van der Weyden - The Madonna of St. Luke

Oil on oak, 1440, 137.5 x 111 cm, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston