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Weyden or on his own account ; for his pictures preserved in Wasari's time in Italy were painted in his latest and most perfect manner;" and he shows, in no department of the art, such tendencies as might have been derived from a study of Italian schools. At all events, he could not have painted the portrait of Isabel of Portugal in 1450, and accompany Van der Weyden, who was at Rome in that year. He was employed at court, as we are led to infer from the catalogue of the Gallery of Margaret of Austria, which notices a Madonna with St. John, and St. Barbara on the wings, painted by Master Hans.” Tradition says, that he followed Charles the Rash in his campaigns; and Descamps states, that he enrolled himself as a common soldier, having lost his character and means by libertinage. On this a wondrous legend is repeated, which has a certain kindly interest. It appears that, shortly after Charles the Rash perished before Nancy, the scattered remnants of his army found their way to Flanders. Amongst them was no less a man than Memling, wounded, wayworn, and hungry. It was on a winter's night, in 1477, that he was seen, in
1 Michiels insists that Memling must have been to Italy, because he represented on a picture a distant view of the Coliseum. But it is not a faithful representation of that monument. Again, he says he copied the old bronze Venetian horses in the Martyrdom of St. Hippolytus. We can see no likeness between these horses and those of Venice. Besides, we doubt that Memling can be the author of this picture.—See Michiels, Peinture Flamande, vol. ii. p. 293.
* Le Glay, ut sup. Kunstblatt, Passavant, 1843, No. 62. De Laborde, Inventaire des tab. de Marg. d’Autriche, ut sup. p. 25.
a piteous plight, crawling into Bruges, and ringing at the gate of the Hospital of St. John." This ancient building, of which the first foundation was laid in ages long gone by, was raised for the relief of the poor and helpless sick of Bruges, and Maldeghem, a neighbouring suburb. Venerable sisters tended female patients, while the males were in the care of monks. The entrance to this Hospital, which may still be seen, is through an arch and rotten doorway, from a street illpaved with pebbles, and overgrown with grass. On entering the gate, we pass a small court-yard where sickly wasted forms are seen seeking repose and shade under a few puny linden trees. Turning to the left, another doorway leads into a hall with galleries like cloisters, filled with beds on which the patients lie. The large old-fashioned grates and columns, the venerable nuns, recal to mind remote and distant times; but the monks are gone, and male and female patients are attended by women only. In a portion of the building are the treasures of the Hospital—the shrine of St. Ursula, and the pictures painted by Hans Memling. Here the painter came in his distress; he scarcely had strength to ring the bell; but falling senseless at the gate, he was raised and taken in by the brethren.” The Belgian writers assert, with much complacency, that Hans was taken in at once, because he was a native of the city; and it was contrary to the foundation to receive a patient not of Bruges or Maldeghem; but as they also say that Hans was so * Catalogue of Bruges Hospital, 3d. Ed. Bruges, 1850, p. 10.
Michiels, ut sup, pp. 303, 304. * Michiels, p. 204,
completely altered and disfigured by his wound and by fatigue that he could not be recognised, he must have been harboured without question. It was not till he improved in health that the brethren discovered him. When his sickness left him, he asked for brushes, painted the picture of the Sibyl Zambeth, and revealed his name; and then, from a sense of gratitude, he painted all the pictures of the Hospital. That Memling followed Charles the Rash in his campaigns is not impossible; but those who say that the picture of the Sibyl Zambeth is the labour of his convalescent leisure, presume on public ignorance." The Sibyl Zambeth is a work of Memling's early days, and Memling must have been employed by the Superior of the Hospital long before the fatal year which ended with the death of Charles the Rash at Nancy. Two portraits of the Morel family seem painted at this time. Some late discoveries, however, have proved that, though Memling was distressed and poor in 1477, his presence at the camp of Charles the Rash is more than problematical. A contract is preserved in the records of Bruges, in which the name of Memling appears. The document contains an inventory of the goods belonging to the corporation of the librariers, in which we find the following:*— “And then their picture, with four wings, in which are * Michiels, p. 305, vol. i. Hospital Catalogue, p. 11. 2 “Noch bovendien huerlieder autaer tafle metten vier dueren daeraenzynde daer Willem Wreland ende zyn wyf zaligher gedachte in ghecontrofeit zyn, ghemaect by der hand van wylen Meestre
Hans.”—C. Carton, Annales de la Soc. d’Emulat, de Bruges, tom. V. 2* Ser. Nos. 3, 4, p. 331,
Guillaume Vreland and his wife of pious memory, painted by the hand of the late Méestre Hans.”
The inventory was taken in 1499 ; at which time it is evident that Memling was no longer living. The records of the company of librariers further contain the following :
“Anno 1477.-Item, given to the carpenter V sc. gr. (escalins), to wit: two sc. for the wings which I lent Meestre Hans for the corporation."
From this it would appear that Meestre Hans was poor enough to want a very small sum, and had so little credit that he could not get the wings without assistance. Again, we find the following :
“ Item, expended at the place of Willem Vreland twelve gros, when Meestre Hans commenced to paint the wings.”
These expenses, be it borne in mind, were made in 1477, when historians say that Memling was on a bed of sickness. Again, same page :- . .“ Item, paid again to the carpenter for two other wings, 4 sc.”
“ Item, advanced to Meestre Hans on the two wings he has to paint for us, one lib. gr.”
Memling, it is evident, was too ill off to paint without advances.
Further, in the records we find subscriptions opened for the payment of the altar-piece, which produce 30 sc. ; and in the account for the year 1478:
1 "Item, ghegheven den scrinewerker V sc. gr. te weten II sc. voor 1 cassyn van onse taflee, en III sc. van de duerkins dien ic Meestre Hans hebbe gheleend van de ghilde weghe."-C. Carton, ut sup., p. 331.
“Item, given to Meestre Hans in all and at once, 3 liv. 11 sch.” 1
Such is the abject state in which we find Memling in 1477-78.
Although the Sposalizio in the Hospital of Bruges is marked 1479, it may be of another year; for the signature is certainly a forgery, and, indeed, admitted to be so by Mr. de Bast. Its style is not so perfect or advanced in practice as that of the Adoration of the Kings in the same Gallery. It is remarkable that the signature and date of the Sposalizio should have been tampered with ; and not unlikely that, if the old inscription were to be found, some further argument might be discovered refuting all the stories of the sickness and recovery of Memling. It is said that brother Floreins, gauger of the order, was the man who chiefly patronised the painter, whilst he laboured at the Hospital;- but this is proved by no distinct document; and the Sposalizio itself, besides containing the portrait of that functionary with gauge in hand amongst his barrels, has on its outer surface full-length portraits of Jacques de Keuninckx, bursar, and Antony Seghers, “master director” of the Hospital, attended by their patrons, St. James of Compostella and St. Anthony the Hermit; and similar likenesses of Agnes Cazenbroed, superior, and
1 “It., verleid tot Willem Vreland XII g. als de duerkins van onse tafle waren Meestre Hans besteet te makene.
“ Item, noch. bet. de scrinewerker van 2 and. duerkins IV sch. g.
“ Item, bet. Meestre Hans up de 2 duerkins die hy heeft van ons te makene 1 lib. gr.
“ Item, gegheven Meestre Hans al samen in een III lib II sch."me C. Carton, ut sup., p. 332.
2 Michiels, vol. ii. p. 305. Catalogue of the Hospital, p. 16,