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Cleo Koerner asked

This diptych shows an allegory of love. Is it erotic or not? What aspects of love does Hans Memling explore?

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

Hi Cleo, The interpretations of this painting differ. The woman on the other half of this diptych is wearing a veil and holding a carnation. At the time these objects symbolized an engagment. Of the two horses depicted on the panel in Rotterdam the white one is mounted by a monkey. This might refer to the bad and the foul. The brown horse however, is looking loyally at the woman on the other panel. Therefore, possibly the white horse is symbolizing the bad, indifferent lover, whereas the brown horse is symbolizing the good, faithful lover. Kind regards, Jephta

eszter karsay asked

Why a monkey? What does it symbolize?

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

Dear Eszter, Together with its pendant in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (depicting a woman in love) this panel is thought to be an allegory - a symbolic depiction - of love. Although the meaning of the horses and monkey can not be established with absolute certainty, it could very well be that the white horse with the monkey - monkeys being a symbol of evil or impudence - stands for the less reliable male lover, while the other horse - which looks up to the woman on the pendant painting - stands for the loyal lover. All the best, Daphne


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Two Horses in a Landscape

Hans Memling (in c. 1490)

This painting with a monkey seated astride a white horse has a rather mysterious subject. What we do know is that it is one half of a diptych. The other panel, in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, depicts a similar brick archway, beneath which a young woman is seen holding a flower, the symbol of true love. The panel in Rotterdam might therefore symbolise man’s conflicting relationship to love: the faithfulness of the horse and the lechery of the monkey.


Title Two Horses in a Landscape
Material and technique Oil on panel
Object type Painting
Location This object is on view in room 33
Dimensions (general) Width : 16 cm
Height : 43 cm
Makers Painter: Hans Memling
Accession number 2470 (OK)
Credits Verworven met de verzameling van / Acquired with the collection of: D.G. van Beuningen 1958
Department Old Masters
Acquisition date 1958
Age maker Between 52 and 61 years old
Collector Collector / D.G. van Beuningen
Exhibitions BABEL - Oude meesters terug uit Japan / Old Masters Back from Japan (2018)
Van Eyck tot Bruegel (1994)
External exhibitions Nederlandsche Kunst van de XVde en XVIde eeuw (1945)
Collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen – Bruegel’s ‘The Tower of Babel’ and Great 16th Century Masters (2017)
Material Oil > Paint > Artist's material > Material > Material and technique
Panel > Worked wood > Wood > Vegetable material > Organic material > Material > Material and technique
Object Painting > Painting > Two-dimensional object > Art object
Geographical origin Germany > Western Europe > Europe
Geographical origin Southern Netherlands > The Netherlands > Western Europe > Europe

All about the maker

Hans Memling

Seligenstadt circa 1433 - Brugge 1494

Hams Memling was most probably a pupil of Rogier van der Weyden. He spent the greater part of his life in Bruges. Since he was, in 1465, one of the greatest tax..