Prayers and Portraits - Hand, John Oliver; Spronk, Ron; Metzger, Catherine A. - Yale University Press
Art and Architecture

Published in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington 

Prayers and Portraits

Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych

  • John Oliver Hand, Catherine A. Metzger, and Ron Spronk
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Out of Print.

Winner of the 2006 George Wittenborn Memorial Award sponsored by the Art Libraries Society of North America

The diptych––comprising two hinged panels that can be opened and closed like a book––was prevalent in Netherlandish art and depicted subjects ranging from secular portraiture to religious personages and stories. This lavishly illustrated book, the first ever to examine this painting format, examines approximately forty Netherlandish diptychs from the 15th and 16th centuries. Featuring magnificent works by Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling, and Hugo van der Goes, among others, the book covers a wide variety of topics, including painting techniques, workshop practice, and the art market in the Netherlands of the time.

With fascinating discussions on each of the featured paintings, Prayers and Portraits reunites a number of diptychs that have long been separated. Essays  examine the works in the context of contemporary texts and religious practices in northern Europe, incorporating new technical information and research. They also offer invaluable insights into the social status and aspirations of the sitters.

The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, in association with the Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge.

John Oliver Hand is Curator of Northern Renaissance Paintings and Catherine A. Metzger is Senior Conservator of Paintings at the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Ron Spronk is Associate Curator for Research at the Straus Center for Conservation, Harvard University Art Museums.


Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp (March 2 – May 27, 2007)

National Gallery of Art, Washington (November 12, 2006 – February 4, 2007)