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Panel Painting Parmentier Panel

Object number
LDSAL1299
Artist/Designer/Maker
Unknown artist
Production date
c. 1500
1519
Material
Wood
Oil Paint
Technique
Oil on panel
Dimensions
Height: 438mm
width: 1981mm
Location
Burlington House - (on display)
    The kneeling figures of the donors of the painting, Jehan Parmentier and his wife, are presented to Christ by St John the Baptist, and St Peter. At either end of the panel are the busts of two prophets, linked to the centre of the composition by inscribed scrolls. The unusual iconography of the Society’s picture is one of the features that betrays it as a palimpsest, for the smaller figures of the donors and their patron saints were painted over the unfurled scrolls and are secondary to the original design, as is the text of the inscription. These additions to the composition, combined with the size and horizontal format of the picture, have given rise to the suggestion that the panel is the predella of a dismembered altarpiece, converted into a customised devotional painting by the insertion of the smaller figures and the text.

    A recent conservation report on the panel supports the proposition that it was created as the predella of an altarpiece by revealing that it was originally framed and attached to another structure. A sequence of discrete painting phases has also been identified. The first, consisting of a layer of green and white pigment possibly representing porphyry, covered the entire surface and extended beneath all of the figures, suggesting that the predella was originally without other ornament. At some point, the busts of Christ and the two prophets with their scrolls – but without the present inscription – were painted onto this fictive marble surface. A layer of black paint was applied around the busts, completely concealing the green ground. The donor figures, saints, current inscription, prie-dieux and prayer books – all executed in another style – were thinly painted over this black surface in a third phase.

    Nothing more is known about the donors than can be gleaned from the panel’s slightly damaged inscription. Parmentier and his wife were French-speaking and evidently sufficiently affluent in 1519 to commission a personalised devotional picture. The name of the town in the inscription, given in an abbreviated form, is difficult to decipher. It may be a contraction of the Latin form of ‘Mons’, the town in north-west Belgium. Another suggestion is that it is an elided version of ‘Mondidier’, hometown in Picardy of the agronomist Antoine-Auguste Parmentier (1737–1813), where the rebuilt parish church of Saint-Sépulchre was consecrated in the year that the Society’s panel was repainted, and the mayor in 1548 and 1550 was a certain Jacques Parmentier.