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    Sale 11973

    Old Master and British Paintings Evening Sale

    7 July 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 3

    Master of the Legend of St. Mary Magdalene (Brussels, active c. 1490-c. 1526)

    The Lamentation

    Price Realised  


    Master of the Legend of St. Mary Magdalene (Brussels, active c. 1490-c. 1526)
    The Lamentation
    oil on panel, arched top
    32 5/8 x 24 ¼ in. (83 x 61.6 cm)

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    This dramatic Lamentation captures the developments brought to Netherlandish painting by the generation that followed Rogier van der Weyden in Brussels. As the prosperous capital of the Low Countries, Brussels remained a vibrant political and commercial centre throughout the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Proud of its indigenous artistic traditions, the city counted many talented painters amongst its thriving artistic community, who continued painting in the Rogierian idiom, including Rogier’s own descendants Pieter and Goswin van der Weyden, but also Vrancke van der Stockt, Colijn de Coter, and other artists whose precise identities remain a mystery, such as the Master of the Embroidered Foliage, the Master of the Princely Portraits and the Master of the Prado Redemption. Among these anonymous painters, the Master of the Legend of St. Mary Magdalene stands out as one of the most idiosyncratic and elusive. This Master, active in Brussels from circa 1490 to circa 1526, owes his name to a dismantled triptych illustrating the life of the eponymous saint (the panels can now be found in Budapest, Szépmüvészeti Múzeum; Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst; Schwerin, Staatliches Museum; formerly Berlin, Kaiser Friedrich-Museum; and Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art). This panel of The Lamentation was given to the Master of the Legend of St. Mary Magdalene by Friedländer in 1974. Christ’s facial type, the complex spatial arrangement and dramatic foreshortening of some of the figures, as well as the unusual placement of St. John’s foot in this painting, all find parallels in the aforementioned triptych by the Master. The picture’s more contemporary elements, such as the exotic costumes worn by the women and the figures’ round facial types, are reminiscent of the work of Bernaert van Orley.

    Although it has no basis in scripture, the Lamentation has been an established subject in Western iconography since the 13th century. The scene depicts the moment immediately after Christ has been taken down from the Cross. The artist’s textual source was likely Pseudo- Bonaventure’s Meditations on the Life of Christ, a widely read text that promoted a deep, personal engagement with the sufferings of Christ. In keeping with this devotional environment, Rogier van der Weyden injected a new expressiveness and pathos in to this traditional subject, in his iconic Miraflores Altarpiece (Berlin, Gemäldegalerie), his Lamentation in The Hague (Mauritshuis) and his Pietà in Brussels (Musées Royaux des Beaux- Arts de Belgique). Building on this legacy, the Master of the Legend of St. Mary Magdalene created a busy composition made up of overlapping figures, fabrics and limbs, the very complexity of which adds to the emotional intensity of the unfolding drama. Framed by the figures of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who carefully carry the dead Christ, the artist has brilliantly contrasted the Virgin’s soft embrace of her deceased son with the violent distress of the Magdalene, whose emphatic gesture of sorrow is echoed in her billowing sleeves.

    This panel may originally have formed the central part of a triptych, the wings of which may have depicted donors introduced by their patron saints. Due to its dimensions, it was probably a portable altarpiece intended for a private chapel or oratory.

    The present work is being offered for sale pursuant to an agreement between the consignor and the heirs of Galerie van Diemen & Co GmbH. This resolves any dispute over ownership of the work and title will pass to the buyer.


    with de Groot, by 1907.
    with Galerie dr. Benedict & Co, Berlin, by 1927.
    with Galerie van Diemen & Co GmbH, Berlin; forced liquidation sale, Graupe, Berlin, 26-27 April 1935, lot 56.
    Conrad Bareiss, Zurich.
    Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, London, 24 June 1964, lot 9 (2,000 gns. to Jantz).
    Hon. M. Ashton; Christie’s, London, 11 April 1975, lot 25 (5,000 gns.).

    Pre-Lot Text



    M. J. Friedlander, Die Altniederländische Malerei, XII, Leiden, 1935, p. 167, no. 18A; English edition, New York, 1975, p. 92, no. 18A.


    Schauffhausen, Museum zu Allerheiligen, Einunddreissig Gemälde des 15. bis 18. Jahrhunderts aus einer Privatsammlung,
    September-November 1952, no. 17.