Hugo van der Goes

The Trinity Altarpiece (about 1478 - 1479)

About this artwork

These panels formed part of one of the most important altarpieces ever painted for a Scottish chapel, and are thought to have been the wings of a triptych. The work was commissioned by Edward Bonkil, Provost of the Collegiate Chapel of the Holy Trinity in Edinburgh. (The chapel was demolished in 1848 to make way for Waverley Station.) The missing central panel possibly showed the Virgin and Child Enthroned, and may have been destroyed during the Reformation. When open, the wings show a devout King James III with his elder son and his queen Margaret of Denmark, accompanied by St Andrew and St George. The lion rampant on the king’s coat of arms is reversed in deference to the holy figures on the missing central panel. The closed wings feature a vision of the Holy Trinity appearing to the kneeling Edward Bonkil.

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Hugo van der Goes

Hugo van der Goes

Hugo van der Goes developed an international reputation during a relatively short career. He was born in Ghent, where he established a successful workshop before entering a monastery near Brussels as a lay-brother. He continued to paint there, but was deeply disturbed by the thought of failing to complete all his projects. He drew inspiration from the two greatest Netherlandish artists of the previous generation, combining Jan van Eyck’s naturalistic detail with Rogier van der Weyden’s emotional expression. His most famous work is an altarpiece painted for a member of the Portinari family in Florence in 1473-8 (Uffizi Gallery, Florence).