The Saluces Altarpiece

(+/- 1500-1510)

While most Brabant altarpieces have just one pair of panels, the Saluces altarpiece has an additional pair, which means that it can presented to the public in three different ways according to the liturgical calendar. 

When there is no ceremony, the altarpiece presents two juxtaposing painted panels which, together, form a large composition on the theme of the Tree of Jesse, showing the ascendance of Mary and Joseph to King David. Opened a first time during ordinary religious celebrations, it deploys four painted panels which can be read from left to right and which illustrate the major episodes in Joseph's history from his birth to his death.  Here, it is no longer a single monumental composition but various descriptive scenes which fit skilfully into the different panels.  

Opened a second time during the major liturgical celebrations of the year, the altarpiece takes the form of a wooden unit divided up into compartments into which sculpted, painted and gilded scenes are integrated which recount the major episodes in Mary's life, with the nativity as the central theme.  The different aspects of the altarpiece correspond to an initiatory path that focuses on the Holy family whilst also leading us into the mystery of the birth of Christ and the encounter with the divine.