This newly discovered panel, painted in circa 1465, is an important addition to the small oeuvre of the Constance artist Peter Murer, as was kindly pointed out in 2007 by Dr. Bernd Konrad. Peter Murer, known in older scholarship as the Master of the Werdenberg Annunciation, is one of the few 15th century artists active in the south-west of Germany (1446- died 1469) that we are familiar with and by whom works have survived. Murer was a scion of a family that produced several artists, all of whom were active in the city of Constance in Swaben, a region connecting southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The Murers must have played an active role in the cultural life of the thriving city, which shortly before had been host to the Council of Constance (1414-18).
Set against a glowing gold background, we witness the Virgin being crowned by Christ and God the Father, flanked by two angels, one playing the lute and the other a vielle. This panel is still in its original frame but probably had a painted reverse, which presumably was later detached to be displayed or sold individually, as was so often the case with panels of altarpieces of this period. The panel once formed part of a small retable and Dr. Bernd Konrad was able to connect this coronation scene to four other preserved pictures by Murer, based on stylistic grounds such as the faces of the figures, the folds in the clothing, the use of a bright palette and the patterns in the gold ground, and a shared provenance: the Princely Collection of Hohenzollern. At least one other panel must have belonged for certain to the same retable: Death of the Virgin, which is also still in its original frame (fig. 1) and shares the same dimensions. Another panel by the artist, an equally small Birth of the Virgin (fig. 2) but with slightly different dimensions (20.5 x 31 cm., excluding the frame), is currently in a private collection and on loan to the National Museum of Liechtenstein, Vaduz (inv. gm. 53 and 52). The whereabouts of the other two panels belonging to this group, depicting a Presentation of Christ in the Temple and a Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, both measuring 20 x 31 cm. (excluding the frame), are unknown.
It is not entirely clear whether the latter three panels were part of the same retable as the coronation and the death scenes, but given their shared provenance of the Hohenzollern Princely Collection, where they were recorded until 1894, it is likely to have been the case (Coronation of the Virgin, inv. no. 2820; Birth of the Virgin, inv. no. 2819; Death of the Virgin, inv. no. 2818; Presentation of Christ in the Temple, inv. no. 2821; and Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, inv. no. 2822). Polyptychs came in many forms and shapes, and the structure of that which would have included the present panel is speculative, however this panel is assumed to have served as the predella.
The first recorded owner, Karl Freiherr von Mayenfisch (1803-1877), originally from Constance, was a pioneering art historian and archaeologist and amassed an impressive collection of paintings and other objects. From the late 1840s onwards he was entrusted with the care of the collections in Sigmaringen, the seat of his patron, Karl Anton, Prince of Hohenzollern, which were by then housed in a museum in the Castle of Sigmaringen and which soon also became home to Mayenfisch’s own collection. It was thanks to the efforts of Mayenfisch that these combined holdings grew to become one of the foremost private collections accessible to the public in southern Germany at that time.
We are grateful to Dr. Bernd Konrad for proposing the attribution and his assistance in cataloguing this lot, which is sold with a certificate by Konrad, dated 19 April 2014.