When this captivating pair of panels appeared at auction in 2010, Dr. Ludwig Meyer suggested they were completed by an artist from the Danube School and would originally have flanked a carved wooden shrine. He noted that the composition of the Martyrdom of Saint Barbara
derives in broad outline and disposition from the principal figures of Lucas Cranach the Elder's woodcut of the same subject (Bartsch 70), which dates to circa
1509. The author of the present panels, however, has adapted Cranach's composition to the taller and narrower format of an altarpiece wing. Dr. Meyer further compared the style of the present pair, particularly in the strong modelling of the figures, to two other panels of circa
1515 depicting the Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence
(Sankt Lorenzkirche, Berching, Oberpfalz), although he recognized that the two pairs were not from the same hand.
A fascinating element appears on the reverse of each panel, for both bear indications that sculptures once decorated their gilded surfaces. Even from the ghostly outlines that remain, one certainly seems to have been St. Francis receiving the stigmata, while the other could be Saint John the Baptist with his arm raised to hold a lamb.
Dendrochronological analysis of the fir panel undertaken by Dr. Peter Klein upholds an early dating for this pair of panels. His report, which is available upon request, suggests an earliest possible creation date of 1502 upwards.