THE size of a picture and the scale of the figures have their share in determining method and style of the painter. Compelled by some commission probably every Netherlandish painter of the fifteenth century undertook small, medium and large-sized panels and, to a greater or lesser degree according to his nature, yielded to the dictates of the size on his style. In many cases art critics were unable to surmount the obstacle of a change of scale and, confused by the difference in style resulting from this change, failed to perceive the identity of the artists, as in the case of Dieric Bouts. A particular size is suitable and natural for every talent even though adaptability to a greater or lesser degree must be assumed and is apparent. Generally speaking a small size is appropriate for early Netherlandish panel painting, which is akin to miniature painting. And for the production of not a few Netherlandish painters the verdict stands: the quality rises and falls in 'inverse proportion' to the measurements of the picture. This certainly applies to Petrus Christus and to the Bruges painter whom we call Adriaen Ysenbrandt. Others, among them famous masters, do not pass unscathed beyond a medium size, as for instance Memlinc and Gerard David, whose religious works done for Spanish patrons (the organ panels from Najera in the Antwerp Museum and the altarpiece of St. Anne in the J. E. Widener Collection, Philadelphia1) are felt to be too big. Here as in many other cases the feeling intrudes that we are looking at enlarged rather than large figures, the uneasy feeling that execution and size are not suited to one another, that the knowledge of form, the observation and content do not suffice to fill out the enlarged boundaries.
Dieric Bouts seems to grow timid as soon as he approaches life-size. His, as it were, short-sighted piecemeal method of execution shies at extensive surfaces. As regards inventive power and conception, Memlinc and Gerard David seem more able to cope with large surfaces but not as regards the formal content. Finally there is a mysterious connection between intellectual power and picture size. Only if his talent is profound and deep-rooted has the artist the power to fill large surfaces of a canvas____________________