This small painted panel shows a scene of the legend of Saint Bernard, who was very popular in the Cistercian order, in which he had propagated reform. This is the miracle of Chatillon-sur-Seine, in which the saint invoked the Virgin by saying "show me that you are my mother". The latter spouted milk from her breast into the mouth of Saint Bernard...
The Virgin, who is sitting under a Venetian velvet canopy, gently holds the Child on her knees. Saint Bernard is dressed in the Cistercian costume, an open book in his left hand – probably the Cistercian Rule – the abbey crosier with a sudarium in his right. The invocation “Monstra te esse matrem” accompanies this. The characters stand out in the foreground of a beautiful hilly landscape, which dominates a Gothic abbey and cloister buildings that are planted at the top of an escarpment; nearby, two clerics converse. As in most paintings by the Flemish Primitives, the high horizon is illuminated by a brilliant halo.
This miracle has found one of his most poetic and refined interpretations in this work. This is particularly evident in the personalised face – perhaps a portrait – of Saint Bernard.