Lot 1
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School of the Lower Rhine circa 1510-15

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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  • School of the Lower Rhine circa 1510-15
  • The Betrayal of Christ
  • oil on oak panel


Hendricus Petrus Bremmer (1871–1956), The Hague;

Anonymous sale, Amsterdam, Fred Muller and Co, 26 April 1910, lot 39, reproduced (as School of Cologne);

With Galerie Brunner, Paris (their seal on the reverse);

Rhineland private collection by 1954 (according to Stange in Literature);

Heinz Kisters (1912–1977), Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, by whom probably acquired in the 1950s;

Sold by the above to Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (1876–1967);

By descent to Adenauer's heirs, by whom sold back to Heinz Kisters;

His sale ('Collection formed by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, the Property of Heinz Kisters’), London, Christie’s, 26 June 1970, lot 9 (as by Jan Joest van Calcar), where unsold;

Thence by inheritance to the present owner.


A. Stange, Deutsche Malerei der Gotik, Nordwestdeutschland in der Zeit von 1450 bis 1515, vol. VI, Munich 1954, p. 70, reproduced plate 116 (as Jan Joest);

R. Breustedt, Die Entstehung und Entwicklung des Nachtbildes in der abendländischen Malerei, Dissertation Göttingen 1966, vol. 1, p. 158, vol. 2, p. 26, n. 184 (as Jan Joest);

A. Stange, Kritisches Verzeichnis der deutschen Tafelbilder vor Dürer, vol. I, Munich 1967, p. 125, no. 400,  (as Jan Joest);

A. Stange, Deutsche Malerei der Gotik, Nordwestdeutschland in der Zeit von 1450 bis 1515, vol. VI, Munich 1969, p. 70, reproduced plate 116 (as Jan Joest);

U. Wolff-Thomsen, Jan Joest von Kalkar. Ein niederländischer Maler um 1500, Bielefeld 1997, pp. 381–82, reproduced plate 146 (as 'unbekannter rheinischer Meister' 1490–1500).


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: School of the Lower Rhine. The Betrayal of Christ. This painting is on an oak panel with some minor past traces of worm, which has been cradled probably early in the twentieth century. The two later cross bars were apparently added simply to aid hanging. The fine craquelure can be traced throughout with only occasional little retouched flakes. A narrow band of retouching along the top edge suggests that this has been added. One or two small lost flakes can be seen just below. A few minute worm holes are visible in the robe of Christ, but this is in beautiful condition overall, as is all the fine detail in the clothes of the figure lying on the ground. The foreground detail is remarkable throughout including the minute vegetation and the candle holder, as well as the armoured legs of the standing soldier on the right. The red pigments have been slightly more vulnerable for instance in the legs of the figure lying in the foreground or in the red drapery of Judas himself, where shadows tend to have been slightly strengthened. There is also some wear visible in the head of the figure on the ground. All the delicate detail in the beautiful distant landscape above has been preserved miraculously intact. As has St Peter with his fine outer drapery, and the complex figures surrounding Christ. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"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 colourful and hugely impressive early panel depicts the great dramatic moment in the Gospels when Christ is betrayed by Judas and captured by the Romans on the Mount of Olives. It was painted in the early years of the sixteenth century in Wesel, a city in Westphalia situated on the river Rhine close to the Netherlands. It is now associated with the most important workshop in the town at that date, that of Derick Baegert (1440 – after 1502), but on account of its exceptionally high quality, whether it was painted by Derick himself, his son Jan, or his close relative Jan Joest, a painter from nearby Calcar who trained in his workshop, has been the source of much debate. The landscape setting, with its closely observed naturalistic details and beautifully rendered effects of moonlight mark its author as a painter of considerable originality.

The great German scholar Alfred Stange was the first to publish this panel, and the first to connect it to Baegert and his workshop in Wesel. Certain aspects of its design bear close comparison with details of his work. The young man seen from behind in the foreground of the present picture, whose ear has just been cut off by Saint Peter, is very similar to another youth found in the foreground in a fragment of a large Calvary by Baegert painted around 1477/78 and today in the Museo Thyssen in Madrid, most notably in the shared and very distinctive profile of the heads.1 Stange, however, saw in the rounder and more developed figures an artistic personality distinct from Baegert, and speculated that it may be that of Jan Joest, to whose early career in Baegert’s workshop he tentatively assigned it. He posited a possible dating after 1500, shortly after the completion of the latter’s now dismembered Passion Altar from the church of Saint Lorenz in Cologne, whose wings he considered the work of Joest and another assistant.2 A skilled artist, Joest would go on to become one of the most influential painters of his generation, both in the Netherlands where his pupils included Joos van Cleve and the Master of Frankfurt, and in Cologne in Germany where his pupil and son-in-law Barthel Bruyn the Elder worked.

Stange’s attribution to Joest, however, has not been accepted by later scholars. Breustedt questioned it in his survey of early moonlight paintings, and it was then rejected by Wolff-Thomsen in her monograph on the artist published in 1997. She proposed instead an attribution to an as yet unidentified Rhenish master of the last decade of the fifteenth century. In 2011, the late Ludwig Meyer once more firmly placed the panel back in the circle or workshop of Derick Baegert.3 Meyer noted, however, that at this date the size of the workshop makes it extremely difficult to distinguish between the works of Baegert himself, Jan Joest or Baegert’s son Jan (c. 1465 – after 1527). The latter, who has also been identified as the Master of Cappenberg, enjoyed a successful career in Westphalia, but the cheerful doll-like rounded figures we find in most of his accepted work seem to display a level of technical accomplishment below that of the present panel.4 Most recently Anna Moraht-Fromm has followed Wolff-Thomsen’s view that the painting is the work of neither of the Baegerts nor Joest, but a Rhenish (?) painter in the following of the former.5 She also assigns the panel a rather later dating to no earlier than 1510–15, correctly observing the artist’s subtle incorporation of motifs such as the reclining foreground figure from Martin Schongauer’s etching of the same subject of 1508 with an overall debt to Albrecht Dürer’s two prints of the subject, the engraving of the same year and a woodcut of 1509–11 from his series of The Small Passion.

Despite its high quality, the earliest history of this painting is not known, and its original location or function can unfortunately only be guessed at. Only one other panel can presently be associated with it, a Crucifixion of similar dimensions formerly on the Paris art market, which suggests that both panels originally formed part of an altarpiece dedicated to the Life or Passion of Christ.6 The two panels certainly appear to be by the same hand. They share stylistic affinities in the treatment of landscape; in the deployment of figures of comparable scale; and in their complimentary application of colour, particularly in the choice of vivid reds and gold accents. Most striking of all are the similarities in the morphology of the faces in both scenes, evident for instance in the same benign expression of Saint Peter in the former and the richly dressed figure of the centurion in the latter. We are grateful to Till-Holger Borchert for bringing this work to our attention. He situates both of these works in the immediate milieu of the workshop of Derick Baegert and his son Jan in Wesel.



1. See I. Lübbecke, The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Early German painting 1350–1550, London 1991, pp. 120–31, no. 29, reproduced in colour.

2. Stange 1967 pp. 123–24, no. 394. The wings are now divided between the Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts in Brussels, and the Alte Pinakothek in Munich.

3. Private communication, 9 September 2011.

4. See the catalogue of the exhibition Jan Baegert. The Master of Cappenberg, Dortmund, Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, 10 May – 29 June 1972. 

5. Private communications, 6 December 2016 and 23 October 2017.

6. Oil on oak panel, 83 x 71.5 cm.