The Portinari Triptych is the author's most famous work, and one of the most beautiful in Flemish art. It is the main representation of the Flemish school in the Uffizi. It is an altarpiece commissioned by Tommaso Portinari, the representative of the Medici family in Bruges. It is his only documented painting, which allows the attribution and dating of the rest of his paintings. Once the painting was finished, it was sent to Florence, as it was destined for the church of the Santa Maria Nuova hospital. The painting was there exposed to the public in the Tuscan city, and exerted an enormous influence on Florentine painters, who noticed the realism evidenced in the shepherds and the landscape. Domenico Ghirlandaio copied the group of shepherds in his 1485 painting for the Sassetti chapel in the church of Santa Trinità. Filippino Lippi, even Botticelli and even Leonardo da Vinci and others studied the work, one of the first Flemish works to arrive in Italy. Lorenzo di Credi and Mariotto Albertinelli copy the Nordic landscape type.
The central panel shows the Adoration of the Shepherds. The wings show the donors and their patron saints. The members of the Portinari family are all smaller than the saints, to indicate their relative importance.
The infant Jesus lies on the ground surrounded by rays of light to represent him as the Light of the world. His mother Mary, his father Joseph, several angels, and the shepherds surround him in adoration. In the background, the previous moment of the narrative sequence, when the angel announces the birth of the Savior, is represented on the surrounding stage. The continuity of the background landscape blurs the division between the central image and the side panels, where the family that commissioned the work is shown in prayer under the protection of four saints. On the left, the Apostle Thomas and Saint Anthony the Great are presided over by the head of the family Tommaso Portinari and his two sons Antonio and Pigello, while on the right Saint Margaret, victorious over the dragon that had swallowed her, and Mary Magdalene, holding a jar of ointment, watches over Maria Baroncelli Portinari and her daughter Margherita. The different proportions of saints and family members reflect their position in the social and religious hierarchy.
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