Monday, 9 February 2015

The Master of Bruges by Terence Morgan

I bought this book because of the title with Bruges in it. This is one of the several, beautiful, medieval cities here in Belgium. At the time it was the Duchy of Burgundy. The book is a historical fiction about the german painter Hans Memling, who spent most of his life in Bruges.

We follow him from his apprentice years with the painter Rogier van der Weyden, his struggle to survive once van der Weyden dies, and how his luck is changed when Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy becomes his patron. He falls in love with the beautiful daughter of the Duke, Mary, and uses her as a model for many of his painted Virgin Marys. His life is forever entwined with the Duchy and it nearly cost him his life when the Duke insists on him painting the battle of Nancy which in the end was lost. By chance, he get's involved in hiding Edward and Richard, two York gentlemen who had to flee from England. Later on, he goes to England to finish a painting, started man years earlier for Sir John Donne, and gets involved in the intricate affairs of Edward IV, Richard III and the Princes of the Tower.

Hans Memling seems to be a man who is everywhere. As far as I can see, from reading about him, his life was not nearly as exciting as this book tells us. But it is an interesting historical touch and incorporates historical events happening at the time of Memling. The book also made me look a little bit more on his paintings, which seem fantastic. There is a Memling museum in Bruges and some of his paintings are also exhibited in the Art Museum in Antwerp. Two trips to do when the weather turns nicer.
Charles the Bold

Mary

It is funny how, sometimes, when you hear a name for the first time, it tends to pop up somewhere else rather quickly. This happened with Rogier van der Weyden, which seems to have been a rather well-known painter. This weekend me and my husband went to Leuven for a stroll in the old city. In the treasure chamber of the St Peter's church there was a triptych which was made after van der Weyden by an anonymous painter. I am sure he will ask for my attention soon again!

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