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A procession of figurines

Retables with their numerous figurines are a beautiful sight. Large examples were intended to be placed on an altar or attached to the wall behind an altar. Smaller pieces like this were for private use.

This retable depicts Christ’s passion. On the left he carries the cross, and the kneeling Veronica wipes the sweat from his head with a cloth. In the middle Jesus is crucified, but Jesus and the cross itself are no longer there. On the right the dead Christ is being taken down from the cross and mourned.


Private use

In the 15th and 16th centuries, workshops in Brabant, including Brussels and Antwerp, were known for their retables. They exported them on a large scale, across Europe and as far as South America. Retables could be very bulky; those for private use are both smaller and rarer.



The original colours have been preserved on this retable, giving us an idea of the rich colouring. A retable was usually closed, in which case believers usually saw painted panels. There is no trace of these in this example.



We know that this retable was made in Brussels because the mark of the Brussels craftsmen appears on it. Connoisseurs can also tell this from the style: the emotions are controlled and subdued, as is often the case with Brussels retables from around 1500.



  • Southern Netherlandish (Jan III Borreman?)
  • Passion Retable, ca. 1490-1495
  • Oak, height: 88 cm (side panels: 65.2 cm), width: 87. cm