SAINT DYMPHNA BY GOOSSEN VAN DER WEYDEN – AN UP-TO-DATE PRINCESS. Some additions to: ‘Crazy about Dymphna: The Story of a Girl who Drove a Medieval City Mad’ (2020)

  • Kerttu Palginõmm
Keywords: Habsburg Netherlands, Margaret of Austria, Netherlandish art, material culture studies, late medieval dress, late medieval textiles


In 2020, two major exhibitions brought to Tallinn by the Phoebus Foundation, the largest private art collection in Belgium, opened at two art museums in Estonia. While the exhibition at the Kadriorg Art Museum exhibited numerous works from the Golden Age of the Flemish painting, the exhibition at the Niguliste Museum made the Dymphna altarpiece from the Goossen van der Weyden workshop (Ca 1505) its focus. The altarpiece was dismantled in the 19th century after which the panel depicting the decapitation of Dymphna was lost.

The exhibition was accompanied by a monograph reflecting on the major topics connected to the Dymphna altarpiece and presenting the results of the conservation work carried out between 2017 and 2020. One of the aspects the book considers is the material culture represented in the Dymphna altarpiece.

The clothing and textiles of the protagonists receive special attention in the monograph, for example when questions such as if the garments worn by the princess and the king are fashionable or out of date are raised. This article explores this question taking the portraits of Habsburg and Castilian princesses painted in around 1500 and not used for comparison in the monograph as its point of departure.

In this paper I propose, that the clothing and accessories of princess Dymphna are modelled on the image of contemporary Habsburg-Castilian princesses, and that such modelling has political implications. The role of Antwerp as a merchant city must also not be forgotten in this context, as the appearance of luxury objects in an artwork is in direct correlation with the city’s milieu of merchandise, luxury production, and the marketing of the city.


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Author Biography

Kerttu Palginõmm

Kerttu Palginõmm (PhD) is a curator at the Niguliste Museum. Her main research areas include the art and material culture of the Burgundian and Habsburg Netherlands, with particular interest in luxury goods in Netherlandish painting. She has curated several exhibitions, for example, The Glory of the Cathedral (University of Tartu Museum 2017–2018) and The Power of Things (Art Museum of Estonia – Niguliste Museum 2018–2019). Palginõmm has published articles, and edited and co-authored catalogues.