Lot 4
  • 4

Bartholomäus Bruyn the elder

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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  • Bartholomäus Bruyn the Elder
  • The Coronation of the Virgin
  • oil on oak panel


Rhenish private collection;

Acquired by the father of the present owner circa 1950;

Thence by inheritance.


Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, 1990–1997, on long term loan;

Bonn, Rheinisches Landesmuseum, 1997–2000, on long term loan, inv. No. D.14154;

Bonn, Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Zeitwenden rückblick, 4 December 1999 – 30 April 2000, no. 49 (as Barthel Bruyn the Elder).


A. Stange, Deutsche Malerei der Gotik, vol. VI, Berlin 1954, pp. 66–67, plate 124 (as Jan Joest van Kalkar);

H.-U. Tümmers, Die Altarbilder des alteren Bartholomäus Bruyn, Cologne 1964, p. 121, under no. C 16 (as Jan Joest van Kalkar);

U. Wolff-Thomsen, Jan Joest von Kalkar. Eth niederländischer Maier urn 1500, Bielefeld 1997, pp. 373–76, plate 142 (as Barthel Bruyn the Elder);

F. G. Zehnder, 100 Bilder und Objekte: Archäologie und Kunst im Rheinischen Landesmuseum Bonn, Cologne 1999, pp. 173–74, reproduced p. 175 (as Barthel Bruyn the Elder);

F. G. Zehnder in, Zeitwenden rückblick, exhibition catalogue, Bonn 1999, p. 140, reproduced p. 141, fig. 49 (as Barthel Bruyn the Elder).


The following condition report is provided by Hamish Dewar who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Structural Condition The panel is uncradled and has a vertical insert on the reverse which runs down through the centre of the panel and has been applied presumably to secure a repaired fracture or join in the panel. The panel is only slightly bowed but there is evidence of some vertical fracture lines which have slightly opened. These run down from the upper horizontal framing edge and there is also a thin line approximately 2 cm in length running up from the lower horizontal framing edge. These do appear to be secure and stable at present but it would be advisable to show the panel to a structural conservator. Paint Surface The paint surface has a reasonably even varnish layer, although there are some very minor surface abrasions. There is a pattern of fine lines of drying craquelure which are most evident in the red draperies, are entirely stable and are a result of the natural drying processes of the artist's materials. Inspection under ultra-violet light shows the varnish layers to be rather opaque, suggesting that cleaning would be beneficial if required. Inspection under ultra-violet light also shows only small scattered retouchings, a number of which are in the clouds in the upper left and upper right of the composition, as well as a few small spots on the red robes and a very thin hairline retouching which runs diagonally across the lower right of the composition, across the pale marble ledge, the red robes of Christ and into the patterned floor. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in essentially good and stable condition although structural issues mentioned above should be addressed.
"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 luminous representation of the Coronation of the Virgin is a major early work by Bartholomäus Bruyn the Elder, the dominant figure in the Cologne School in the first half of the sixteenth century. The picture is important not only for providing a synthesis of the late Gothic tradition with more contemporary, Renaissance elements, but also for demonstrating the assimilation of strong early Netherlandish influences within the context of contemporary Rhenish art. With it, Bruyn brings inventions of the art of the Netherlands into the Rhenish vernacular. 

The hierarchical composition and the placing of the figures upon a traditional paved floor is influenced by late Gothic prototypes, which can be found in works by artists active in Cologne in the mid- to late fifteenth century. The treatment of the firmament of angels, however, shows an awareness of new modes of pictorial representation, which developed as the influence of the Renaissance was felt more widely in northern Europe. 

Bruyn's early development as an artist took place in the workshop of Jan Joest van Kalkar, which he entered in 1505. Although Jan Joest was German, he was profoundly influenced by the art of the Low Countries and in particular by the artists Gerard David and Geertgen tot Sint Jans. The dramatic use of light employed by Bruyn in the Coronation of the Virgin clearly demonstrates Jan Joest's influence, but the composition is entirely of Bruyn's own devising. Although this is one of the artist's first independent works, his unique artistic personality was already well developed. 

A dating of circa 1515 is proposed by Wolff-Thomsen (see under Literature), and agreed upon by Tümmers, on the basis of comparison with Bruyn's first documented altarpiece, the Coronation of the Virgin, painted in 1515–16, for Dr Peter von Clapis, law Professor of the University of Cologne, and his wife (fig. 1).1 Tümmers originally published the present work as by Jan Joest van Kalkar (see Literature) but revised his opinion in 1999 to identify it as the first independent work of the painter, showing the influence of both Kalkar and the new Cologne style. 

Two inferior versions of this composition are known. The first, oil on panel, 105 x 78 cm., now in the Erzbischofliches Diozesanmuseum Cologne, is shaped at the top and has an elaborately embroidered border of the Virgin's robe and the drapery of two angels visible in the uppermost part of the picture. The second, oil on panel, 39 x 25 cm., formerly Huber collection, Cologne, is rectangular with a simpler and more schematic firmament of angels. Both panels are much weaker than the present painting and they are regarded by Tümmers to be painted by an unknown artist in the circle of Jan Joest van Kalkar or of Bruyn.2

1. Private collection, Munich; see Tümmers 1964, pp. 56–57, plate A 24.

2. Tümmers 1964, p. 121, no. C16, and p. 121, no. C47.