The Portinari Altarpiece

The Portinari Altarpiece

Artist Hugo van der Goes

Date ca. 1474-76

Movement Northern Renaissance

Medium Tempera and oil on panel

Dimensions 8’3.5″ x 10’ (center panel); 8’3.5 x 4’7.5” (each wing)

Housed at Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence


In the central panel, fieldworkers, angels, and animals come to behold the Child Christ and his mother Mary. The patron, Tommaso Portinari, and his family occupy the wings and peer into the miraculous scene before them, while a continuous background connects the scene. Hugo treats the figures and landscape naturalistically (even employing atmospheric perspective); however, there is a vast discrepancy in the scale of the figures and there is a stark contrast between the reverent poses of the angelic and aristocratic figures with the rough forms of the shepherds; the overall hues of the work are cold, lending an uneasy feel.