Lot 7
  • 7

Brussels School, circa 1500-10

25,000 - 35,000 GBP
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  • A diptych:Recto: Saint Cornelius, full length, holding a hornVerso: The flight into Egypt, with reapers in a landscape beyondRecto: Saint Catherine of Alexandria, full length, dressed in redVerso: Saints Anne and Joachim with the education of the Virgin beyond
  • both oil on oak panel


George Simon, 2nd Earl Harcourt, by 1806;
By descent at Nuneham Courtenay, where they hung in the State Room, until taken to Stanton Harcourt in 1948 by the 2nd Viscount Harcourt, where they hung in the Manor House Chapel.


G.S. Harcourt, H. Walpole & J. Reynolds, Catalogue of the Pictures at Nuneham, 1806;
The Harcourt Papers, 1880, vol. 3, p. 247, nos. 73 and 74 ("A curious, ancient whole-length picture of St Catherine, forming part of the folding door of an altarpiece and another of St. Gregory");
G.F. Waagen, Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain, London 1857, Supplement, p. 351 (as Martin Schaffner of Ulm).


"The following condition report has been provided by Henry Gentle, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. Saint Cornelius The panel is of oak and has an unstable vertical join. The paint surface is raised and unstable with previous retouched out paint losses and further more recent paint losses in the lower left quarter. The whole is covered by surface dirt and discoloured varnish . Apart from the damages and paint loss already mentioned the paint surface is in original , untouched condition. The Flight in to Egypt Structurally similar to above, however, the paint loss is more extreme, both old and restored out and recent. The discoloration to the surface is similar to St. Cornelius. Saint Catherine The structure is similar to St. Cornelius with the addition of two unstable vertical joins and the presence of raised paint blisters, an unstable paint surface and previous paint losses. The surface is covered in a discoloured varnish. Like St. Cornelius there are areas in original untouched condition. Saints Anne and Joachim The structure is similar to St. Catherine but underneath the discoloured varnish can be seen a substantial amount of retouched out paint losses , the result of an unstable paint surface."
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

The saints, painted on the recto of each of these works, are of a type produced in several Brussels workshops towards the end of the 15th century. Saint Catherine may be compared with both the panel in Cambridge, Queen's College Chapel, attributed to the Master of the View of Saint Gudule (active in Brussels circa 1480), in which the saint is seen treading on Emperor Maxentius, standing against a wall draped with a gold brocade, and with Colyn de Coter's depiction of the same saint on the exterior of the retable in Geel, St. Dymphna.1 Cornelius may be compared with De Coter's depiction of the saint on the wing of the Orsoy retable.2

The verso of the Saint Catherine panel, depicting The Presentation of the Virgin, derives from Vrancke van der Stockt's depiction of the same scene in the Escorial.3 Van der Stockt was the city painter of Brussels after Rogier van der Weyden and probably owned a large number of Rogier's drawings; this composition may therefore ultimately derive from a lost or unknown work by Van der Weyden. The Escorial panel differs from the present work in that the staircase curves slightly down to the left and, in the left foreground, the positioning of  Anna and Joachim is reversed; an angel leads the Virgin up the stairs to a similarly Romanesque temple in which two, rather than three, virgins are seen reading. Another variation of Vrancke's panel, probably from De Coter's workshop, is in London, St. John's Gate, The Order of St. John.4 

A note on the Literature: The Catalogue of the Pictures at Nuneham was completed and published after the deaths of both Sir Joshua Reynolds (d. 1792) and Horace Walpole (d. 1797) by George Simon, Earl Harcourt (d. 1809).

1. See C. Grossinger, North-European Panel Paintings, London and New York 1992, reproduced p. 85, fig. 52 and p. 142, fig. 124 respectively.
2. See C. Perier-d'Ieteren, Colyn de Coter et la technique picturale des peintures flamands du XVe siecle, Brussels 1985, reproduced fig. 237.
3. C. Grossinger, ibid., reproduced p. 142, fig. 122.
4. C. Grossinger, ibid., reproduced p. 140, fig. 118.