Rogier van der Weyden – Diptych of Philippe de Croÿ, 1460
A popular feature of the Northern Renaissance this diptych follows a long tradition.
In the first panel the Virgin Mary looks tenderly towards her infant son whom she holds. The baby Jesus steps on a golden and red pillow examining with childish curiosity the clasp of the prayer book his mother holds. The golden background symbolizes the heaven where they reside. The second panel which was meant to be placed at the opposite site presents the pious patron, Philippe de Croÿ, grand bailiff of Hainaut. Dressed in a velvet robe, set in the dark background of his home or private chapel, he kneels in praying holding a common Catholic praying instrument: a rosary which ends with a crucifix.
The diptych aimed at denoting not only his status as a dominant member of the city’s society, but also his piety and devotion. The golden chain, the ring, the hilt of a dagger and his coat of arms on the exterior reflect his status on earth; his praying pose his role as a good Christian, while his gaze targeted to the other panel reflects his inner view and thus the realization of his prayers and his position in heaven after his death.