Cologne School around 1450
The Adoration of the Magi
Oil on panel. 78 x 42 cm.
This panel has been published many times and was included in the important 1994 Stefan Lochner exhibition in Cologne. The piece originally formed part of a triptych, probably intended for a church in Cologne. Further panels from the altarpiece can be found, among other places, in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, and the Museum Wiesbaden. The outer faces originally featured 12 panels with depictions of the Apostles whilst the inner faces had panels with scenes from the Life of Christ before (on the left) and after (on the right) His Passion. The present panel would thus have been located on the inner left face of the altarpiece.
The piece depicts the Adoration of the Magi against an imposing gold backdrop. The Virgin Mary is seated in front of a thatched stable with the Christ Child in Her lap; both figures' heads are encompassed by large gold haloes. The eldest of the three kings is shown kneeling in adoration before the Child. He wears an ermine-lined brocade cloak whilst the other two kings, shown standing to the right of the Virgin, wear comparatively more simple robes. Saint Joseph appears as a somewhat humble figure, partially concealed on the left edge of the image. The vivid red and green tones of the robes of two of the kings and the blue of the Virgin's cloak stand out boldly against the radiant gold of the background. Two of the gifts brought by the kings are arranged in a kind of still life on the lower edge of the panel, with one placed upon a richly adorned casket, alongside the crown-like headdress of the eldest king. Bright white accents lend the painted jewels a striking trompe l'oeil effect.
The panel displays strong stylistic proximity to the works of Stefan Lochner, to whose school this panel and the others from the same altarpiece were initially attributed. Alfred Stange ascribed the altarpiece to the Master of the Heisterbach Altar in 1967. However, in 1972 Goldberg/Scheffler introduced the idea of an independent artist active in Cologne in the mid-15th century with no direct link to the studios of either Stefan Lochner or the Master of the Heisterbach Altar, but nevertheless showing a close relationship to their works.
Friedrich Lippmann (1838-1903), Berlin. - Auctioned by Lepke (“Sammlung des verstorbenen geheimen Regierungsrats und früheren Direktors des Koenigl. Kupferstichkabinetts zu Berlin Friedrich Lippmann“), Berlin, 26.-27.11.1912, lot 51 (as: Master of the Heisterbach Altar). - Ottmar Strauss (1878-1941), Cologne. - Dr. Friedrich Thyssen (1873–1951). – Confiscated from his possession in 1939 and restituted in 1950. - Gifted by Dr. Friedrich Thyssen to the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn (inv. no. 51.160) in 1951. - Restituted to the heirs of Ottmar Strauss in 2015. - Auctioned by Sotheby’s, London, 10.12.2015, lot 150. - Sam Fogg art dealers, London. - European Private Collection.
Max J. Friedländer, in: Lepke auction catalogue (Sammlung Friedrich Lippmann), Berlin 1912, p. 7-11, p. 8f. (as: Master of the Heisterbach Altar). - Franz Rademacher: Eine Schenkung von Dr. Fritz Thyssen an das Bonner Landesmuseum, in: Kunstchronik 5, 1952, p. 167 and 182, illus. 7 (as: Follower of Stefan Lochner). - Franz Rademacher: Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn. Verzeichnis der Gemälde, Cologne & Graz 1959, p. 28 (as: Master of the Heisterbach Altar, circle of). - Alfred Stange: Kritisches Verzeichnis der deutschen Tafelbilder vor Dürer, 3 vols., Munich 1967-78, vol. 1, Munich 1967, p. 47f, no. 110d (as: Master of the Heisterbach Altar). - Gisela Goldberg and Gisela Scheffler: Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen Alte Pinakothek München. Altdeutsche Gemälde. Cologne and West Germany, Vollständiger Katalog (=Gemäldekataloge XIV), Munich 1972, p. 148. - Ingeborg Krueger, in: Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn. Gemälde bis 1900, Cologne 1982, p. 260f (illus.). - Frank Günter Zehnder: Katalog der Altkölner Malerei (=Kataloge des Wallraf-Richartz-Museums XI), Cologne 1990, p. 459. - Dagmar R. Täube, in: Exhib. cat. “Stefan Lochner. Meister zu Köln. Herkunft – Werke – Wirkung”, Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, 3.12.1993-27.2.1994, Cologne 1993, p. 348f, no. 56a (illus.). - Julien Chapuis: Stefan Lochner. Image Making in Fifteenth-Century Cologne, Turnhout 2004, p. 253-5, illus. 214.
Stefan Lochner. Meister zu Köln. Herkunft – Werke – Wirkung, Köln, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, 3.12.1993-27.2.1994, no. 56a.