My next study project is the Hugo van der Goes painting: Death of the Virgin, also referred to as The Dormition, dated 1470-80. It’s housed at the Groeninge Museum in Bruges.
But there was a more local source that also inspired Van der Goes, the Just Judges panel of the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan and Hubert van Eyck. In Hugo’s version the ‘just judges’ are the twelve apostles appointed by Jesus to judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19 : 28).
On visiting Ghent in 1495, some years after Hugo’s death in 1482, the humanist Hieronymus Münzer wrote that the Ghent Altarpiece had no rivals and “another great painter” who had attempted to equal the Ghent Altarpiece in his own work had been “driven mad and melancholy”. Art historians assume that Münzer was writing about Hugo van der Goes.
A feature of Jan van Eyck’s Just Judges panel is the multiplication of identities – four– given to each of the ten judges. Hugo adopted a similar approach of creating multiple identities for The Dormition.