Antwerp School, circa 1520
- Antwerp School, circa 1520
- The Mass of St. Gregory
- oil on panel
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Albrecht Dürer had treated the scene similarly a little earlier in the century, in a woodcut dated 1511. We know, as well, of a painting of The Mass of St. Gregory, commissioned from Michel Sittow for the convent of St. Brigitte near Reval in 1522, but have no description of the work. However a larger painting (72 by 56 cm.) by Adriaen Isenbrandt (active circa 1510-1551), in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, is extremely close to the present work. Both show a group of men crowding around the altar, though the painting by Isenbrandt has an additional kneeling figure in the lower left, between St. Gregory and the edge of the composition. It also includes a kneeling man holding the papal crown, in much the same position as here, though he is a portlier figure based on Van Eyck's Man with a Pink. There is, as well, another version of the subject from the Gallo Altarpiece, in the church of San Juan Bautista, Castrojeriz, by the Master of Castrojeriz, a northern artist working in Spain, probably from Bruges.1 It is similar in composition to the present work, though it does not include the man with the crown, and the figures are also alike, but the differences in scale (the panel is 99 by 43.5 cm.) complicate direct comparisons.
Considering the figure types alone, the present work seems closest to the Altarpiece of the Virgin and Child, now in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, attributed by Friedländer to the Master of the Female Half-Lengths.2 Unfortunately that artist's oeuvre has not been fully established.
1. See D. Martens, Peinture Flamande et goût Ibérique aux XVème et XVIème siècles, Bruxelles 2010, for a discussion of the artist and the altarpiece.
2. M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, revised edition, New York and Washington, D.C. 1975, vol. XII, Jan van Scorel and Pieter Coeck van Aelst, p. 96, no. 52, reproduced plate 32.