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PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT FLEMISH COLLECTION

Netherlandish, Brabant, circa 1480-1500
RELIEF WITH THE LEGEND OF THE TRUE CROSS
Estimate
35,00050,000
LOT SOLD. 43,750 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
26

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT FLEMISH COLLECTION

Netherlandish, Brabant, circa 1480-1500
RELIEF WITH THE LEGEND OF THE TRUE CROSS
Estimate
35,00050,000
LOT SOLD. 43,750 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art

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London

Netherlandish, Brabant, circa 1480-1500
RELIEF WITH THE LEGEND OF THE TRUE CROSS
oak, on a modern metal base
relief: 68 by 65cm., 26¾ by 25 5/8 in. 
base: 4.2 by 66cm., 1 5/8  by 26in. 
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

With Kunstzalen Vecht, 2001;
private collection, Belgium

Exhibited

San Cristóbal de La Laguna, Lumen canariense, 2003-2004

Literature

P. Williamson, Netherlandish Sculpture: 1450-1550, cat. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2002, p. 71;
Lumen Canariense, El Cristo de la Laguna y su Tiempo, Estudio Critico I
, exh. cat. Instituto de Canarias "Cabrera Pinto", Santuario del Santisimo Cristo de La Laguna, Ermita de San Miguel Arcangel, Salas de Arte de Caja Canarias, Tenerife, 2003, no. 67

Catalogue Note

The Legend of the True Cross gained much popularity in the Middle Ages from the thirteenth century onward, after Jacobus da Varagine wrote his famous Legenda Aurea (c. 1260). The story, which involves several generations of Biblical characters, begins with a dying Adam who receives from the archangel Michael three twigs of the Tree of Paradise. The twigs are planted on Adam's grave and grow to be a tree in the time of Solomon - Solomon then cuts the tree down and displays it over the door of the temple; this is the scene featured in the present relief. The Queen of Sheba, who worships the wood, then predicts the Messias will hang from that tree. Solomon grows suspicious and throws the wood into a river; it resurfaces in the time of Christ's Passion, when the Jews use it to fabricate the cross. In the 4th century, the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine, then finds the cross and divides it between Rome, Constantinople and Jerusalem. The last installment of the story is set in the 7th century, when the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius saves the part of the relic that was sent to Jerusalem, as it was stolen by the Persians. 

Netherlandish art of the 15th and early 16th century did not produce monumental sequences of reliefs or frescoes of the True Cross legend, such as the History of the True Cross painted by Piero della Francesca in Arezzo. However, the legend was known in sequences of woodcuts, miniatures and illuminations. The Book of Hours of Catherine of Cleves features eight illuminated miniatures with the legend of the Cross (Utrecht, 1442-1445); and the printer Johan Veldener published a extensive cycle of woodcuts of the Legend of the True Cross in Culemborg in 1483. An Antwerp altarpiece of the Passion, in Saint Peter's Chruch in Dortmund, features the story of the True Cross on the lowest register (op. cit. p. 80-81). Lastly, and most comparable to the present relief, are a series of wood reliefs in the Victoria and Albert Museum (inv. nos. 114-1908; 114A to F-1908), attributed to Southern Netherlands, probably Brussels, circa 1500. Although less elaborately carved and of smaller size to the present relief, comparisons are clearly visible in the characterful faces, the costumes, and the positioning of some of the figures. 

In the 2003 exhibition Lumen Canariense (op. cit., no. 67), the present relief is attributed to Brabant sculptor, architect and printer Alart du Hameel. The attribution is largely based on a print in the British Museum, which shows the Emperor Heraclius entering Jerusalem with the True Cross (inv. no. 1845,1809.438). Although the print is clearly part of the same tradition as the present relief, none of du Hameel's sculptural works have survived. Therefore, although some similarities can be seen in style - compare, for instance, the mounts on the cross beam - the attribution cannot be sustained unless further attributed works by du Hameel are found. The present relief then is likely to have formed part of a large retable illustrating the legend of the True Cross, perhaps in similar manner as the Dortmund altarpiece. 

RELATED LITERATURE
M. Buyle and C. Vanthillo, Retables Flamands et Brabançons dans les Monuments Belges, Brussels, 2000, 79-86; B. Baert, 'De legende van het kruishout in de Nederlanden', in Hout in boeken, houten boeken en de fraaye konst van houtdraayen, ed. L. Knapen en L. Kenis, Leuven, 2008, pp. 63-78.

The present lot is offered with a Radiocarbon dating measurement report prepared by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, dated 12 July 1999, which states that the wood from the sample dates between AD 1404 and 1517 (92.1% confidence interval). 

Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art

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