Lot 8
  • 8

Master of the Holy Kinship

100,000 - 150,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Master of the Holy Kinship
  • The Adoration of the Magi (interior); The Throne of Grace (exterior): a double sided panel
  • oil on panel
  • 45 3/4 x 33 5/8 inches


Hermann Joseph Dethier, Cologne;
By whom sold to Sulpice and Melchior Boisserée, Cologne, until 1827;
By whom sold to King Ludwig I of Bavaria, from 1827;
Deposited at the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, by 1856–1923;
Wittelsbacher Ausgleichsfonds, Munich, 1923–24 (inv. no. WAF 655);
Crown Prince Ruprecht of Bavaria, Munich, 1924–25;
By whom sold to A.S. Drey, Munich and New York, 1925–26;
By whom sold to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1926, inv. no. 26.52ab.


Verzeichniss der Gemälde in der königlichen Pinakothek zu München, Munich 1856, p. 151, no. 26 (as by an unknown artist in the style of Quentin Massys; does not mention the reverse; indicates that the picture was given in payment from the royal household goods);
G. Parthey, "L–Z," in Deutscher Bildersaal, 2, Berlin 1864, p. 112, no. 2 (under "Art und Schule des Quintin Messys" as in the Pinakothek, Munich, mentioning only the obverse);
R. Marggraff, Catalogue of the Pictures in the Old Royal Pinakothek at Munich, 2nd original ed., Munich 1878, p. 63, no. 621 (as by Artist of Cologne; does not mention the reverse; notes that it comes from the collection of the brothers Sulpice and Melchior Boisserée);
Katalog der Gemälde-Sammlung der Kgl. Älteren Pinakothek in München, Munich 1884, p. 10, no. 47 (under the Kölnischer Meister der hl. Sippe und dessen Schule, without indicating which works are considered to be by the master himself and which by his school; describes the reverse);
L Scheibler, "Schongauer und der Meister des Bartholomäus," in Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft, 7, 1884, p. 57, no. 18;
H. Janitschek, Geschichte der deutschen Malerei, Berlin 1890, p. 511;
J. Jacob Merlo, Kölnische Künstler in alter und neuer Zeit, Düsseldorf 1895, col. 1176 (as the Master of the Holy Kinship);
C. Aldenhoven, Geschichte der kölner Malerschule, Lübeck 1902, p. 250 (as the Master of the Holy Kinship, commenting that the features of the third magus recall those of the "Man with Pinks" by Jan van Eyck in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin);
H. Kehrer, Die Heiligen Drei Könige in Literatur und Kunst, 2, Leipzig 1909, pp. 238–39, fig. 278 (obverse) (as the Master of the Holy Kinship the Elder, datable to circa 1480; relating it to a work of the same subject of circa 1490 assigned to the Master of the Holy Kinship the Younger [fig. 279; Reichsfreiherrn von Landsberg, Schloss Gemen, Velen]; comments on the dependence of these two works on Rogier van der Weyden's Columba altarpiece [Alte Pinakothek, Munich]);
E. Firmenich-Richartz, "Sulpiz und Melchior Boisserée als Kunstsammler: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Romantik," in Die Brüder Boisserée, 1, Jena 1916, pp. 469–70, no. 102 (as by the Master of the Holy Kinship; identifies it as the wing of an altarpiece and calls it heavily restored; mistakenly notes that Aldenhoven [see Ref. 1902] attributes it to the master's workshop);
F. Burger, "Die Osterreichisch-bayerischen Lande (2. Teil), Schwaben, Oberrhein und die Schweiz bis 1420," in Die Deutsche Malerei vom ausgehenden Mittelalter bis zum Ende der Renaissance, 2, part 1, Potsdam 1917, p. 449 (as an important work by the Master of the Holy Kinship);
K. Schaefer, Geschichte der kölner Malerschule, Lübeck 1923, p. 29 (as the Master of the Holy Kinship);
H. Brockmann. Die Spätzeit der Kölner Malerschule: Der Meister von St. Severin und der Meister der Ursulalegende, Bonn 1924, pp. 81, 288, no. 144, p. 315 (as School of the Master of the Holy Kinship);
H. Reiners, Die Kölner Malerschule, Munich 1925, p. 154, fig. 270 (obverse) (as Workshop of the Master of the Holy Kinship; discussing the influence of Geertgen tot sint Jans and Hugo van der Goes, noting that one of the magi derives from Hugo [see Ref. Friedländer 1926]);
M.J. Friedländer, "Hugo van der Goesm," in Die altniederländische Malerei, 4, Berlin 1926, p. 66, reproduced, plate LXXIX (obverse) (as the Master of the Holy Kinship, noting that the second magus as being based on the corresponding figure in Hugo van der Goes' Monforte Altarpiece [Gemäldegalerie, Berlin]; mentioning another work of this subject by the Master of the Holy Kinship [art market, Amsterdam] that also depicts the first magus kneeling to kiss the Child's foot);
G. de Térey, "'The Adoration of the Magi' and the 'Holy Trinity' by the Master of the 'Heilige Sippe' (Holy Kin)," in Art in America, 14, October 1926, pp. 231–39, reproduced (obverse and reverse) (as the Master of the Holy Kinship, stating that it was probably the left wing of an altarpiece, and listing several other works of this subject by the same painter);
H. Wehle. "A Late-Gothic Rhenish Painting," in Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 21 May 1926, pp. 120–23, reproduced (obverse) (as part of a dismembered altarpiece, attributing the obverse to the Master of the Holy Kinship and the reverse to the master or his workshop; states that the sea creature carved into the stone below the seated Virgin derives from an engraving by Mantegna; discusses the provenance; finds that the picture's chief distinction is its color);
J. Meier-Graefe, "The Contribution of Germany to European Art—Part II," in Creative Art, 8, May 1931, reproduced, p. 350 (as by the Master of the Holy Kinship);
C.L. Kuhn, A Catalogue of German Paintings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in American Collections, Cambridge, Massachusetts 1936, p. 25, no. 13 (as the Master of the Holy Kinship and dates it about 1490, finding it closely related to the artist's Last Judgment in Nuremberg; identifying it as "The Holy Trinity," with the "Adoration of the Magi" on the reverse);
E. Waldmann, "Deutsche Kunst in amerikanischen Museen," in Der Türmer: Deutsche Monatshefte, 39, January 1937, p. 300;
H.B. Wehle and M. Salinger, The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings, New York 1947, pp. 177–78, reproduced (identifing it as the right wing of an altarpiece; call it typical of the artist's work, "especially in his later years when he could have profited from the study of Quentin Massys's work");
Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler, 37, Leipzig 1950, p. 313  (as the Master of the Holy Kinship the Younger, calling it probably the left wing of a lost altarpiece; dates it after 1490, following a presumed trip to the Netherlands);
A. Stange, "Köln in der Zeit von 1450 bis 1515," in Deutsche Malerei der Gotik, 5, Munich 1952, pp. 81, 86, reproduced, figs. 159-160 (mistakenly refering to the panel as split; dates it about 1490 and believes that although its condition has suffered it must originally have been one of the artist's strongest works from that period; mentions that the bearded magus recalls apostles by Hugo van der Goes; compares it with a stained-glass window depicting Saints Bernhard and Columba in the Kunstgewerbe-Museum, Berlin);
F. Winkler, Das Werk des Hugo van der Goes, Berlin 1964, p. 21 no. 1, p. 198, reproduced, fig. 11 (obverse) (as the Master of the Holy Kinship and comparing the second magus with the same figure in Hugo's Monforte Altarpiece [see Ref. Friedländer 1926]; stating that both the MMA painting and a drawing by Hans Holbein the Elder in Basel [fig. 9] are based on a lost work by Hugo);
A. Stange, "Köln, Niederrhein, Westfalen, Hamburg, Lübeck und Niedersachsen," Kritisches Verzeichnis der deutschen Tafelbilder vor Dürer,1, Munich 1967, p. 91, no. 269;
M.J. Friedländer, "Hugo van der Goes," in Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. 4, New York 1969, p. 39, reproduced, plate 105A;
A. Markham Schulz, "The Columba Altarpiece and Roger van der Weyden's Stylistic Development," in Münchner Jahrbuch der Bildenden Kunst, 3rd ser., 22, 1971, p. 106 no. 15 (includes it in a list of pictures by Cologne painters that show the influence of Rogier van der Weyden's Columba Altarpiece [Alte Pinakothek, Munich]);
K. Baetjer, European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born in or Before 1865, Vol. 1. New York 1980, p. 119, reproduced, vol. II, p. 291;
M. Faries, "The Technical Investigation of Some Panels in the Master of the Holy Kinship Group: A Progress Report," in Le dessin sous-jacent dans la peinture. Colloque 6, Louvain-la-Neuve 1987, pp. 64, 66, 67, nn. 4, 7 (noting that examination has revealed that the reverse of the panel—in addition to other works in the group—exhibits inscribed color details, possibly made as instructions to workshop assistants; also mentions that the panel—together with the eponymous work by the artist in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne—includes "a dry underdrawing material");
M. Kessler-van den Heuvel Technischen Hochschule, Meister der Heiligen Sippe der Jüngere, Frankfurt 1987, pp. 282–88, no. W5, reproduced, figs. 112–14 (as Workshop of the Master of the Holy Kinship and dates it to circa 1493–95);
L. Mason, "A Late Medieval Cologne Artistic Workshop: The Master of the Holy Kinship the Younger, a Technical and Art Historical Study," PhD dissertation, Indiana University 1991, pp. 135, 192–94, 201, 285–88, no. IIA.1, reproduced, figs. 10, 10a–f (as the Master of the Holy Kinship the Younger Group, including it among "panels related to the collaborative years"; dates it to circa 1493–95; provides a list of color notations that she states appear on the Adoration (obverse), although these inscriptions evidently appear on the Throne of God (reverse) [see Ref. Faries 1987]; discusses the underdrawing, which she relates to that in the master's eponymous work in Cologne)
G. Goldberg, "Das Schicksal der Sammlung Boisserée in Bayern: Wie die Sammlung nach Bayern kam und dort aufgenommen wurde," in Kunst als Kulturgut: Die Bildersammlung der Brüder Boisserée—ein Schritt in der Begründung des Museums, Bonn 1995, p. 121 n. 38, fig. 78 (obverse) (as by the workshop of the Master of the Holy Kinship);
K. Baetjer, European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865, A Summary Catalogue, New York 1995, p. 215, reproduced;
"Corpus-Band zu Kölner Gemäldesammlungen 1800–1860," in Lust und Verlust, exhibition catalogue, Cologne 1998, pp. 371–72, no. 78, reproduced (tentatively assigned to the Workshop of the Master of the Holy Kinship).


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This double sided panel seems to have been restored in the past fifty years. Both sides are noticeably dirty with a yellowed varnish, and the paintings may have been retouched and possibly fully restored without being fully cleaned. The large panel is flat, and the paint layers are stable at present. The primary composition of the Nativity seems to be in very encouraging condition. While there may have been some instability to this composition on the far left side and running up the right side, the center of the work seems to have remained very healthy. The paint layer in the head of the Madonna, in the Child, and throughout the figures of the kings is very healthy. Although there is the odd retouching, none of them is misleading or cosmetic in nature. The consolidated area of lifting paint in the side of the face of the king upholding his crown has not even received any retouching at all. If and when this composition is cleaned, retouches will obviously be removed. However, they will not be significant, as abrasion and whole sale loss has not occurred. The gilding may have been augmented, but seems to retain a good deal of its original surface. The only area of great repair is in the upper right above the heads of the two figures on the extreme left. The restoration here is rather confusing. At the very least, there is a tone in this area throughout the landscape and the flag which does not match the remainder of the picture. The condition of the reverse, picturing the Throne of Grace with the Trinity, is less good, but is still fairly lively. The varnish is peeling off the surface in some areas. Two cleaning tests have been made in the lower right and lower left. There has been instability and cracking in the upper left and upper right. The figure group in the center is in better condition, although the figure of Christ is quite abraded. There are losses that have been restored, although not particularly well, here and there throughout the picture. Therefore, the primary scene of the Nativity can be considered to be in very good condition. The reverse is in less good condition. However, both works will respond well to restoration.
"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

This double-sided panel once formed the wing of a now lost altarpiece, with the Adoration of the Magi originally serving as the interior panel and the Throne of Grace  as the exterior.The eponymous work of this anonymous German artist is in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne. The Master of the Holy Kinship, along with his workshop, emerged as a distinct hand among a group of artists in and around Cologne who produced works such as the present panel, along with more specialized pictures on stained glass. Their style was greatly influenced by Flemish painters, in particular, Hugo van der Goes, whose Monforte Altarpiece (Berlin SMPK) may be seen  as a direct inspiration for the individual figures in this work (particularly the second kneeling King in the Adoration). Furthermore, the picture is indicative of the influence which Rogier van der Weyden had on the group of Cologne painters working at the turn of the 16th century (see Literature, Schulz 1971, p. 106, note 15). Such influence on the present work can be seen in Rogier's Columba Altarpiece, which utilizes a similar spatial construction and figural arrangement found in the Adoration here. 

Ludwig Scheibler was the first to propose The Master of the Holy Kinship as the author of this panel (see Literature, Scheibler 1884, p.57, note 18), after which time it has been almost universally accepted as by the hand of this rare and anonymous master.  Wehle and Salinger (see Literature) both proposed that this painting probably dated to the latter part of the artist's career. 

The activity within the Adoration of the Magi is focused within the central foreground of the composition, with the main character heads in strict planar alignment. Angels fly above the Madonna and Child as they carry a richly embroidered piece of drapery which serves as a canopy.  The Magi present their gifts to the Christ child, as onlookers fill the remainder of the foreground. A detailed cityscape with soldiers and civilians completes this realistic Gothic interpretation of the Adoration. The composition depicting The Throne of Grace presents The Holy Trinity - God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Christ - in a tightly arranged unit. Angels kneel and pray beside the throne, while the female donor of the panel prays at the bottom of the scene. The embroidery of the canopy in this scene is of the same richly delineated pattern found in the canopy in the Adoration

1. Wehle and Salinger (see Literature) argued that it was the right wing, while others (see Térey 1926 under Literature and Thieme-Becker 1950) identify it as the left wing.
2. See Reiners 1925 under Literature, p. 154, fig. 270.