The National Museum of Western Art

update 19 February 2019

Currently not on display

Flemish School of the 15th century 

Mater Dolorosa

Materials/Techniquesoil on panel
Size (cm)49.5 x 35.3
Credit LinePurchased
Collection NumberP.1975-0001
Mater Dolorosa

This half-length image of the "Grieving Madonna", or "Mater Dolorosa" in Latin, with tears on her cheeks and hands clasped in prayer, is depicted against a gold background. This image of the Madonna is extremely close to the image by Roger van der Weyden seen on the left side of the central panel of the Braque Triptych (Musée du Louvre, Paris), indeed, the connection is so close that it seems to be a copy of the Louvre image. However, in terms of the subject, the Louvre work shows the Madonna in the context of the "Deesis," or the grouping that includes Christ as Judge, with Madonna and St. John, which derives from the Last Judgment Scene. As a result, the Madonna in the Louvre work is not the Grieving Madonna who cries over the death of Christ, but rather is the Madonna of Intervention who pleads for mercy from Christ the Judge. Thus it does not follow that the Madonna must be sad in order to cry. Conversely, the NMWA work shows tears to clearly convey an image of the Madonna as "Grieving Madonna," with added elements of her hands folded in prayer and her eyes gazing upward. These factors heavily differ from the depiction of the Madonna in this guise thought to have been created by Dieric Bouts. Another work that is closely related to the NMWA work is the Mater Dolorosa (Uffizi Gallery, Florence) by Hans Memling. While here the image has been reversed left to right, the NMWA work and the Uffizi panel share both subject and formal elements. In terms of the painter of this work, the painting was previously attributed by the NMWA to Colin de Coter. However the gentle, subdued expression characteristic of this work differs from the more strongly emotive expression that can almost be called expressionist in style found in the majority of De Coter's works. While it is difficult to assign a specific artist name to this work at present, the work was probably painted by a Bruges painter strongly influenced by Hans Memling. In any event, this painting is a superb example of the deep religiosity found in 15th-century Flemish paintings.(Source: Masterpieces of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 2009, cat. no.6)


Otto Wertheimer, Paris; Purchased by the NMWA, 1975.

Exhibition History

Alternative Humanities: Jan Fabre×Katsura Funakoshi, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, 29 April 2010 - 31 August 2010


Bulletin Annuel du Musée National d’Art Occidental, No. 10 (1975), 1977, Nouvelles acquisitions, par Chisaburoh F. Yamada, p. 4. Nouvelles acquisitions (catalogue). pp. 8-9. repr.
The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo: Catalogue of paintings. Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art, 1979, no. 45, repr.
Kobayashi-Sato, Yoriko. Catalogue of Dutch and Flemish Paintings in Japan II. Annual Report Bridgestone Museum of Art & Ishibashi Museum of Art. no. 38 (1989), 1991, pp. 31-32, no. 43, repr.
Kofuku, Akira. Tears running down the cheeks, Rogier van der Weyden and the expression of emotions in early Flemish painting. Journal of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. No. 3, 1999, pp. 5-20, repr. [with English Abstract]
Kofuku, Akira. Catalogue of Dutch and Flemish Paintings, The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. [Tokyo], The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo; The Western Art Foundation, 2018, pp. 30-32, no. 4, col. repr.

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