GALLERIES/Ben Elwes Fine Art
PROVENANCE:Richard von Kaufmann, Berlin (sale Berlin, Cassirer and Helbing, 1917, II, lot 122) ;
Private Collection, Czechoslovakia (sale New York, Parke-Bernet Galleries, 5 November 1942, lot 46; bt. Bumova);
Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Y. Palitz, New York;
Thence by descent;
Richard L. Feigen & Co.;
G. Ring, ‘An Austrian Triptych,’ The Art Bulletin, XXVI (March, 1944), pp. 51-52 (ill. figs. 1-2);
E. Panofsky, Early Netherlandish Painting. Its Origins and Character, Cambridge, Mass., 1966, I, p. 462, no. 4;
Tomislav Vignjevic, Der Meister des Krainburger Altars, Ljubljana, 1996, pp. 70-73 ill.
Paris, Louvre, Exposition des Primatifs Français, 1904, no. 96 (as Ecole française de l’est, vers 1480);
Indianapolis, the John Herron Art Museum, Holbein and his Contemporaries, 22 October-24 December 1950, no. 53 (as Master of the Krainburg Altar);
Bruges, Groeninge Museum, Van Eyck to Durer: early Netherlandish painting and central Europe, 1430-1530, 29 October 2010-30 January 2011, no. 258, pp. 462-463 ill.
FURTHER INFORMATION:Despite its high level of quality, this small altarpiece has eluded all attempts to securely identify its author. It was exhibited at the Louvre in 1904 as French school, perhaps Alsace or Swabia, circa 1480. At the von Kaufmann sale in Berlin in 1917, Max J. Friedländer tentatively catalogued it as by a French master, circa 1500, but also added it could be Lower Rhenish. Writing in 1944, Grete Ring ascribed the triptych to an artist she believed to be an itinerant southeast Austrian called the Master of the Krainburg Altar, with whose eponymous work in now in the Belvedere, Vienna (formerly in the parish church of the town of Krainburg, south of the Karawank mountains) she found numerous motival and morphological correspondences. While noting that the Lamentation scene is based on a Rogier van der Weyden (1400-1464) composition, Ring pointed to the similarities of female types, the relation of the principal foreground scenes to the landscape, the ornamentation of the painted architectural framework, and the claw-like hands as evidence that the triptych and Vienna pictures are by the same author.
Erwin Panofsky in 1953, also listed the triptych among those works dependant upon Rogier's treatment of the lamentation. Although he also recognized that the source of the picture was likely from an intermediate follower of Rogier. The figures of Saint John the Evangeslist and Mary Magdalene, the latter somewhat mannered in her grieving pose, also suggest a familiarity with the lamentations of Petrus Christus (c.1410-1475/6).
Ring's attribution to the Master of the Krainburg Altar was seconded by Tomo Vignjevic (op.cit), Curator of Medieval Art at the National Museum of Slovenia in Ljubljana, who also identified this artist's hand in a number of frescoes in Slovenia. Although it is impossible to determine his origins, documents indicate that the Master of the Krainburg Altar was active in Slovenia for at least 15 years. He was a prominent citizen of the town of Kamnik, and had a flourishing workshop there (see T. Vignjevic, "Der Altar von Krainburg (Kranj) und die Fresken in St. Primus Oberhalb Kamnik zur Künstlerischen Identität eines Spätgotischen Malers," Osterreichische Zeitschrift für Kunst und Denkmalpflege, XLVI, 3/4, 1992, pp. 106-115).
As Julius Held noted many years ago, the representation of the city of Jerusalem in the background of the central panel replicates a woodcut by Erhard Reuwich in Bernard von Breydenbach's Peregrinato in Terram Sanctum, which was published in Mainz in 1486, thus providing a terminus post quem for the triptych.