South Tyrolean Master, circa 1515
An unusually wide nut panel presents us with two scenes happening one after the other. To the left we see Joachim, who was the father of Mary, mother of Jesus, being awoken from his sleep by an angel. He was a childless but honourable priest who had retreated from the world to repent because the high priest had told him his infertility was a sin and a punishment from God. Then the angel appeared to him and told him he will have a child. In the right half of the picture he is happily embracing his wife Anna, who has also received the good news from an angel. He meets her at the Golden Gate, the entrance to the Temple in Jerusalem. A flock of white sheep – painted in a wonderfully naive and childish manner – separate the two parts of the story and symbolise the journey to Jerusalem, but also the transference of the story to an Alpine landscape and the period in which the painting was made.
The story of Mary’s parents does not appear in the Bible. It is found in the apocryphal Gospel of James and The Golden Legend, which was very popular in medieval Europe. With its rich narrative style and numerous stories from the everyday lives of the saints, it was one of the most widely read sources of information and an important element of lay piety.
The panel originally formed the middle section of a large winged altarpiece, which was accessible to the public in the chancel. How close a relationship worshippers had with the altar and how accessible it was can be seen from numerous scratched marks to be found on the back. Pilgrims were obviously not prevented from leaving their name or their initials on the decorative paintings in order to express their closeness to the saints.
Very few Gothic winged altarpieces have survived intact. Along with being removed from the context of a carefully arranged composition, knowledge of the provenance and the painter has also been lost. We therefore do not know any precise information about this altar, and it can only be traced to a likely area and period by comparison with other works.
This comparison was done by Dr. Bernd Konrad, using works discovered in Brixen in South Tyrol, allowing him to suggest a similarity to works by Nikolaus Stürhofer and Haug Spengler.
The large expressive eyes with tapering corners, the soft, rhythmic drawing of the folds and the beautiful composition with a limited range of intense colours are typical of this painter. The painter has also made a charming attempt to use landscape to make the story more appealing and painterly.
This panel painting will be offered for sale on the 26th April 2017 as part of the “Old Master Paintings” auction at im Kinsky
Text: Marianne Hussl-Hörmann, im Kinsky