After initially being linked to Stefan Lochner, Stange attributed the triptych to the Master of the Heisterbach Altarpiece, an artist working in mid-fifteenth-century Cologne who owes his name to the monumental polyptych made for the Cistercian abbey of Heisterbach, near Bonn. The Master bears such an affinity to Lochner's paintings in terms of compositional motifs, physiognomies and treatment of light, that early critics believed the altarpiece to be by a young Lochner. More recently, however, Goldberg and Scheffler removed the panels from the corpus of the Heisterbach Master, whose figures are more elongated and whose compositions are more spacious and sensitive to depth. Subsequent authors have agreed with this assessment, preferring to designate our artist as an anonymous Cologne painter active around 1450. Writing most recently, Chapuis characterised this anonymous artist as belonging, like the Heisterbach Master, to a group of mid-century painters who combined Lochner's inventions with the Weich Stil, or soft style, traditionally associated with the Veronica and Lawrence Masters of the previous generation. Certain elements in the present work look to be directly derived from their counterparts in Lochner's Dombild Altarpiece in the Cathedral of Cologne, such as the profile of the kneeling magi and the gifts. The Virgin's face, by contrast, is closer to that of the Veronica Master's Virgin with the Flowering Pea, in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne.3
Friedrich Lippmann was Director of the Königliches Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin in the late nineteenth century, and oversaw the print room during a period of spectacular growth. He was a collector of early pictures and sculpture of the German, Netherlandish and Italian schools.
1. For a full list of the known panels and their whereabouts, see Zehnder 1990, p. 459. M.J. Friedländer connected the present panel with the others from the same altarpiece in 1912 (see Literature).
2. D.R. Taübe 1993, p. 348.
3. Inv. no. 11 866. See Zehnder 1990, p. 316–23, reproduced fig. 206.
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