Lot 2
  • 2

The Master of the Magdalene Legend

50,000 - 70,000 GBP
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  • The Master of the Magdalene Legend
  • Portrait of an infant princess, bust length, probably the Archduchess Isabella, daughter of Phillip the Fair and sister of Charles V
  • oil on oak panel


“Baron von Buttjens, Löwen” (Louvain?), as by Holbein, according to a label on the reverse;
Dr Albert Figdor, Vienna;
His sale, Berlin, Cassirer, (first part), 29 September 1930, lot 49, for 51,000 Reichsmarks to Goldschmidt;
Presumably with J. & S. Goldschmidt, Bellevuestraße 3, Berlin, before 1935 (see footnote 1 below);
Acquired by Dr Wolfgang Huck, presumably from the Goldschmidts, in the early 1930s;
Thence by descent to the present owner, his grandson.


M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. XII, Leiden 1975, p. 94, no. 35, reproduced plate 24.


The following condition report is provided by Hamish Dewar , who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's. UNCONDITIONAL AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE Structural Condition The artist's panel is not cradled and is providing a secure structural support. There is a thin vertical strip of canvas attached to the reverse of the panel, running down from the upper edge which is beneath one of the labels on the reverse of the panel and has been applied to secure a vertical split running down from the upper edge. Paint Surface The paint surface has very discoloured varnish layers as well as surface dirt and would undoubtedly be transformed by cleaning. Inspection under ultra-violet light shows two vertical lines of inpainting, one of which corresponds to the vertical split running down from the upper edge and the other a thin line running through the sitter's face, the retouchings of which cover a very fine hairline crack in the panel. There are two very small spots of inpainting in the lower left corner and other very minor spots of inpainting Summary The painting would therefor appear to be in very good and stable condition and should be transformed by cleaning, restoration and revarnishing. Frame The gilded carved frame has small scattered losses and some areas where the gilding has been touched in with gold paint.
"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 identification of the sitter as Isabella of Austria (1501-1526), daughter of Philip the Fair and Johanna, sister of the Emperor Charles V, who was married in 1514 to Christian II, King of Denmark, almost certainly predates Dr Figdor’s ownership, since it is recorded in an old label in English on the reverse.  Max J. Friedländer, who was responsible for the Figdor sale catalogue, describes the sitter as a sister of Charles V, probably Isabella, and notes that pictures of this sort had recently been attributed to the Master of the Magdelene Legend.  Paul Lambotte, who wrote to the Goldschmidts on 13 March 1935 requesting the loan of the picture to the Brussels international exhibition later that year devoted to Cinq Siècles d’Art Bruxellois, described the work as by the Master of the Magdalene Legend and of one of the sisters of Charles V.1

The identification of the present sitter as the Archduchess Isabella is supported by similarities with her portrait framed with (and doubtless conceived together with) portraits of her brother the future Charles V and her sister Eleonora (who is of a markedly different appearance).  The three portraits, still together in their original frame, are in Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, and have also been attributed in the past to the Master of the Magdalene Legend, but also more recently to both the Master of the Josephsfolge and the Master of the Saint George's Guild.2

The Master was named by Friedländer after a dismembered altarpiece that chronicled the life of the Magdalene.3  Evidence for his association with Philip the Fair, to whom he is assumed to have been Court Painter, is made by a triptych of The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes in Melbourne, in which the wings are by the Master of the Magdalene Legend, and depict Philip the Good with his three wives, Charles the Bold with his wife, and Philip the Fair, unmarried.  The Master painted Philip the Fair in a number of versions, and likewise his daughters, as well as other members of his family, always on a small scale, and as here, bust length.  These small-scale works epitomise official portraiture at the Burgundian Court in Brussels.  The present portrait is similar in format, size and style to one of the sitter's father, Philip the Fair, sold at Sotheby's, New York, 28 January 2000, lot 6, for $470,000.

Dr Wolfgang Huck (1898-1967) was a highly influential newspaper proprietor in Berlin in the 1920s, and was married to the famous actress Camilla Eibenschütz, who worked almost exclusively with the Director Max Reinhard.  The couple divided their time between their Dahlem villa and the country estate of Bogenbergslehen in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, both buildings having been designed by the Berlin architect Albert Breslauer.

1.  A scanned copy of this letter is available upon request.  Lambotte wrote to the Goldschmidts as the buyer of record in the Figdor sale, and in his letter asked for the name of the current owner, or if the Goldschmidts could intercede to negotiate the loan with the owner.
2.  See G. Heinz & K. Schütz, Porträtgalerie zur Geschichte Östereichs von 1400 bis 1800, Vienna 1976, pp. 61-2, no. 19, reproduced plate 36.
3.  See under Literature, pp. 13-17.