Incorrect Username, Email, or Password
A man visible from the chest up with wounds on his head and hands

A light-skinned man with long brown hair and a beard holds his hands next to his chest, palms facing out. There is a crown of twisted branches with long thorns around his head. Many of the thorns pierce into his forehead and can be seen under the skin. Long droplets of blood flow from his hairline. The man’s eyes are red and filled with tears, which fall down along his cheeks. Small droplets of blood can be seen on the man’s chest. In the center of each of his palms is a bloody puncture wound.

Gallery Text

Paired icons, or images, of the Man of Sorrows and the Mater Dolorosa appeared as early as the Byzantine era. In the fifteenth century, this pairing, which encouraged the beholder to empathize with both the Passion of Christ and the human suffering of his mother, was popular north of the Alps, possibly because it responded to the religious reform movement known as the Devotio Moderna. Although these two panels most likely left the artist’s workshop together, technical evidence reveals differences in their preparation and execution. The image of Christ (2001.121), which could stand on its own, may have been made independently of its companion (2001.171), which could have been painted to form this pair at the behest of a particular patron. None of the surviving pairings of this kind from the Bouts workshop have original hinging or painted backs, indicating that the panels were meant to be hung on a wall and not joined together as a folding diptych.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Aelbert Bouts, Netherlandish (c. 1451/54 - 1549)
The Man of Sorrows
Work Type
mid 1490s
Creation Place: Europe, Netherlands
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2500, European Art, 13th–16th century, Art and Image in Europe
View this object's location on our interactive map

Physical Descriptions

Oil on oak panel
37.9 x 26.5 cm (14 15/16 x 10 7/16 in.)
frame: 46 x 36 cm (18 1/8 x 14 3/16 in.)

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, The Kate, Maurice R. and Melvin R. Seiden Special Purchase Fund in honor of Seymour and Zoya Slive
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.

Publication History

  • Ron Spronk, "Three Boutsian Paintings in the Fogg Art Museum: Technical Examinations and Art Historical Implications", Bouts Studies: Proceedings of the International Colloquium [1998], ed. Bert Cardon, Uitgeverij Peeters (Leuven and Sterling, Virginia, 2001), pp. 431-439, repr. in color p.432
  • Peter Klein, "Dendrochronological Analyses of Netherlandish Paintings", Recent Developments in the Technical Examination of Early Netherlandish Painting, ed. Molly Faries, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge MA, 2003), pp. 65-81, p. 80, in table 5
  • Molly Faries, ed., Recent Developments in the Technical Examination of Early Netherlandish Painting: Methodology, Limitations and Perspectives, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2003), p. 164, in glossary section, detail repr. as fig. 8
  • John Oliver Hand and Ron Spronk, ed., Essays in Context: Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych, Harvard University Art Museums/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2006), p. 244 cat. no. 4
  • John Oliver Hand, Catherine A. Metzger, and Ron Spronk, Prayers and Portraits: Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych, exh. cat., Yale University Press (New Haven, CT, and London, 2006), p. 21; no. 4, pp. 50-55, repr. in color; detail repr. as fig. 1, p. 54; IR repr. as fig. 2A
  • Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 62, repr.
  • Bernard Descheemaeker, Bernard Descheemaeker Works of Art, exh. cat. (Antwerp, 2010), related to cat. no. 11
  • Peter van den Brink, Dagmar Preising, and Michel Polfer, ed., Blut und Tränen: Albrecht Bouts und das Antlitz der Passion, exh. cat., Verlag Schnell & Steiner (Regensburg, 2016), p. 33, repr. p. 36, fig. 7, repr. p. 37, fig. 8 (infrared image), under cat. no. 23, pp. 108-109, fig. 1

Exhibition History

  • Prayers & Portraits: Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 11/12/2006 - 02/04/2007; Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, 03/03/2007 - 05/27/2007
  • Ancient to Modern, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 06/01/2013
  • 32Q: 2500 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Related Works

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at