Trinity Altarpiece
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Trinity Altarpiece
The Trinity Altarpiece

The Trinity Altarpiece, also known as the Trinity Altar Panels, is a set of four paintings in oil on wood thought to have been commissioned for the Trinity College Kirk in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the late fifteenth century.

The work is attributed to the Flemish artist Hugo van der Goes and probably represents the inner and outer panels of the wings of a triptych. The presumed central panel is lost.[1] The painting in the church was described as a "burd" on 17 May 1516 when John Stewart, Duke of Albany made an offering at the high altar on Trinity Sunday.[2]

The work represents a rare example of Scots religious art to have survived the iconoclasm of the Reformation.

The panels are part of the British Royal Art Collection and are displayed at the Scottish National Gallery.[3]


The four panels depict the following subjects:

  • The Holy Trinity.
  • A praying cleric, thought to be the contemporary Provost of Trinity College Kirk, Edward Bonkil,[3] accompanied by two angels playing an organ.
  • King James III of Scotland at prayer attended by Saint Andrew and a boy who may be the future King James IV.[1]  The royal arms of Scotland hang from a wall.
  • Queen Margaret of Scotland at prayer attended by Saint George. Her royal arms decorate her lectern.
Trinity College Kirk in an engraving of 1825

Edward Bonkil was a member of a wealty Edinburgh merchant family with commercial connections in Bruges.[4] He may have commissioned the altarpiece to strengthen ties of the Trinity Collegiate Church with Margaret of Denmark, and the imagery used express her interests and personal iconography.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b The Royal Collection
  2. ^ Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 5 (Edinburgh, 1903), 79 "for offerand to the He Altar and burd".
  3. ^ a b National Galleries of Scotland
  4. ^ Lorne Campbell, 'Edward Bonkil: A Scottish Patron of Hugo van der Goes', The Burlington Magazine 126 (1984), pp. 265-74.
  5. ^ Jill Harrison, 'Fresh Perspectives on Hugo van Goes' Portrait of Margaret of Denmark and the Trinity Altarpiece', The Court Historian, 24:2 (2019), pp. 120-138.

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