Jean Bellegambe worked in Douai, in a part of northern France that was once part of the county of Flanders. These panels are the wings of a triptych, a three-paneled folding altarpiece, whose center (now in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels) shows the Virgin and Child enthroned under an elaborate architectural canopy. The two elegant saints are identifiable by their attributes: for Catherine, the wheel upon which she was tortured and the sword with which she was martyred; and for Barbara, the tower where her father locked her up to keep her safe from suitors. Saint Catherine also holds a ring, which the Christ Child in the Brussels panel reaches to grasp, thus indicating that their mystical union was the subject of the triptych. The tops of the two wings have been rounded off to mask their original function as moveable shutters to the left and right of the center panel. The backs and fronts of the wings were also separated; the backs of the wings, showing the Annunciation when the triptych was closed, are now in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.


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