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An eventful 2017 with Hans Memling

One of the most significant works to be found among the Gdansk museum collections is “The Last Judgment” by Hans Memling. It is worth taking a closer look at this Early Netherlandish artist this year, as he has been named Patron of 2017

An eventful 2017 with Hans Memling (1/1)

“The Last Judgment” by Hans Memling
“The Last Judgment” by Hans Memling
Fot. Gdansk Tourism Organisation

Historical outline

He began work on the picture 550 years ago, having been commissioned by Angelo Tani, a rich Italian banker. In order to distinguish his patron, Memling immortalized Tani on the wings of the triptych. However, the painting was never to reach its commissioner, as while being transported to Italy it was intercepted by Pawel Beneke, a privateer from Gdansk. He took it to Gdansk, where he handed it over to St. Mary’s Church.

Throughout its long and rich history, the painting changed hands numerous times. At the beginning of the 19th century it could be seen in the Louvre, as one of the many works of art seized by Napoleon Bonaparte. Next it was in Berlin, and then only in 1817 did it find its way back to Gdansk once more. During World War II, the painting was transported back to Berlin, in fear that the approaching Red Army would get its hands on it. Despite all that the effort, the Red Army took the picture and it was exhibited in Leningrad’s Hermitage Museum. It returned to Gdansk in 1958, but not to its original location. Today it is the most precious exhibit for the National Museum in Gdansk.

The figures:

- year of creation: 1471

- height: 242 cm

- width: 360 cm

- price offered for the painting in late 16th century: 40,000 thalers

The Year of Hans Memling in Gdansk

In this Year of Hans Memling in Gdansk, the city’s cultural institutions have prepared many events and activities related to this painting.

Next week you have the chance to participate in solving XXXL jigsaw puzzles of the triptych, 10 times larger than real life!

Further events await in July. The FETA Theatre has prepared a street performance called “The Last Judgment”, to be seen on 13 July in Gdansk’s Stare Przedmiescie district.

Throughout August, the Archaeological Museum of Gdansk plans to host a fascinating exhibition on trade relations between Gdansk and the Low Countries, which is where Memling painted this masterpiece. The exhibition “Weights for weighing gold coins as evidence of trade relations between Gdansk and the Low Countries in the second half of the 15th century” (featured as part of the “Historical Treasure of the Month” cycle) will display weights and scales used to weigh gold coins, as well as other exhibits from Memling’s times.

It’s also worth marking 22 October on your calendar. At 6 PM, the Joy of Life Pentecostal Church hosts a concert of Capella Gedanensis, conducted by Agnieszka Frankow-Zelazny.

The next event inspired by Memling’s painting is due on 9 November (9 PM, at the Baltic Opera), with the premiere of “The Last Judgment”, an opera commissioned by the Baltic Opera in Gdansk. The opera is performed as part of the Opera Gedanensis commission cycle.

The most important event of the Year of Hans Memling is, undoubtedly, the Gdansk Memling Conference, which initiates a cycle of symposia about the painter. The National Museum in Gdansk plans to hold the conference every four years. The theme of this year’s conference is, naturally, Hans Memling himself, but in a broader context, the conference also touching upon devotional motifs in Early Netherlandish painting from the 15th to the 16th century. The conference also features an exhibition that runs through November and December of 2017: “Dwelling with Christ and Mary. Art and private devotion in the Low Countries from 1460 to 1520. An exhibition from Polish collections.” The works exhibited will illustrate the type of painting that was once dedicated for private devotion.

The Year of Hans Memling ends with a classical music concert at the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Hall: Symphonic Concert - Composer Commissioned Projects. The audience has the opportunity to enjoy the world premiere of Pawel Szymanski’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, a work inspired by Memling’s “Last Judgment”.

For more information on the upcoming events click here.