The magical ritual shown here by an anonymous artist from the lower Rhine in the 1470s is not supposed to incite love, but to reveal to the maid her future husband, shown here as entering the door. Rituals like these were common at the time and place and not considered witchcraft. Dozens of recipes have survived. The plants on the floor, the contents of the box, the nakedness of the caster, and maybe some of the other items in the room are all part of the spell.

The anatomy is remarkable in being so completely off. The girl looks like two broken statues glued together. Both the part above and below the elbow are fine on their own, but they don’t match. Compare the three graces in the Palazzo Schifanoia. They are contemporaries, but Francesco del Cossa got it, mostly, right. Correct anatomy is an art that was rediscovered south of the Alps first, the same is not necessarily true for realistic portraiture.

Of course, what we are looking here is an early pin-up, one of the first. It is a small painting, about the size of a book (24×18cm), meant to be enjoyed in private, not shown off. This type of picture gained popularity in the North, about the same time Florence and Ferrara rediscovered ancient mythology.

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