Master of the Crucifixion Triptych
- Master of the Crucifixion Triptych
The Death of the Virgin
- oil on panel
Friedrich Jacob Gsell (1812-1871), Vienna;
His deceased sale, George Plach, Vienna, 14 March 1872, part of lot 229 (as school of Michael Wolgemut);
Nicolaus von Scanavi, Vienna;
Anonymous sale, Weinmüller, Munich, 30 September to 2 October, 1964, part of lot 91, to Dr. Rudolf Kremayr, for DM 60,000;
Thence by descent in the family;
Private collection, New York
O. Benesch,"Der Meister des Krainburger Altars," in Wiener Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte, vol. VII (1930), pp. 191-92 reproduced fig. 57;
O. Pächt, Österreichishe Tafelmalerei der Gotik, Vienna 1929, p.72, as the Master of the Braunau Bäckeraltar;
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Katalog der Gemäldegalerie, 2nd edition, Vienna 1938, p. 107, under no. 1800, as Circle of the Master of the Vienna Schottenstift;
"Meister des Kreuzigungstriptychons, in Thieme-Becker, vol. XXXVII, Leipzig 1950, p. 191;.
A. Stange, Deutsche Malerei der Gotik, vol. 13, Munich and Berlin 1961, p. 48, reproduced p. 98;
O. Benesch, "Der Meister des Krainburger Altars," in Otto Benesch, Collected Writings, ed. by E. Benesch, vol. III, German and Austrian Art of the 15th and 16th Centuries, London 1972, p.194, reproduced pl. 215;
G. Biedermann, Katalog Alte Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum: Mittelalterliche Kunst: Tafelwerke – Schreinaltäre – Skulpturen, Graz 1982, p. 124, under no. 30
The Death of the Virgin is a more sober work than The Birth of the Virgin (lot 100) and the Master of the Crucifixion Triptych uses both the setting and the figures themselves to convey the poignancy of the event about to occur. Although the setting is similar to that of the Birth of the Virgin – a small room with a bed arranged diagonally across the space – in this panel there is none of that happy sense of occupation that characterized St. Anne's attendants in the previous work. Here the apostles are packed tightly together, surrounding the Virgin, in order to be close to her and comfort her as she nears her death. There is so little space that the figure of the apostle in green is cut off by the edge of the doorway, a very modern looking compositonal device, but one that is no doubt intended to underline his determination to remain on watch with the others.
In creating this composition, the Crucifixion Master once again drew on the example of the Master of the Vienna Schottenstift, but he also looked to an engraving by Martin Schongauer (see fig.1) for inspiration. The motif of the two young apostles kneeling by the Virgin's bed is clearly derived from Schongauer's engraving as is the placement of St. John on the far side of the bed, putting the candle into the Virgin's hand. However, in the engraving John is seen in profile, his eyes downcast as he delicately supports the Virgin's right hand and places the candle in it. In the panel here, he is facing toward the bottom of the bed, and reaches across her shoulder to take her hand in his. His gesture recalls a father firmly grasping his child's hand, thus emphasizing the Virgin's humanity and her weakened condition and making the scene all the more tender.