MASTER OF THE WALLRAF TRIPTYCH (ACTIVE CIRCA 1360)
MASTER OF THE WALLRAF TRIPTYCH (ACTIVE CIRCA 1360)
MASTER OF THE WALLRAF TRIPTYCH (ACTIVE CIRCA 1360)
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MASTER OF THE WALLRAF TRIPTYCH (ACTIVE CIRCA 1360)
5 More
PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION
MASTER OF THE WALLRAF TRIPTYCH (ACTIVE CIRCA 1360)

The Wallraf Triptych: the central panel: The Madonna and Child with Saints Clare and Francis, and a Clarisse Donor, the Annunciation above; left wing: The Nativity, The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, The Last Supper with a Papal Saint and Christ on the Way to Calvary; right wing: The Flagellation, The Crucifixion, The Pietà and The Last Judgement

Details
MASTER OF THE WALLRAF TRIPTYCH (ACTIVE CIRCA 1360)
The Wallraf Triptych: the central panel: The Madonna and Child with Saints Clare and Francis, and a Clarisse Donor, the Annunciation above; left wing: The Nativity, The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, The Last Supper with a Papal Saint and Christ on the Way to Calvary; right wing: The Flagellation, The Crucifixion, The Pietà and The Last Judgement
inscribed 'MP / ?Y' (on the central panel on either side of the Madonna's head, and 'ICXC' (to the left of the infant Christ)
tempera and gold on panel
central panel: 30 ½ x 20 5/8 in. (77.2 x 52 cm.); left wing: 30 ½ x 10 1/8 in. (77.2 x 27.5 cm.); right wing: 30 ½ x 10 ¼ in. (77.2 x 26 cm.)
Provenance
Ferdinand Franz Wallraf (1748-1824), believed to have been bought in 1802, and by whom bequeathed in 1824 to,
City of Cologne, and by whom placed on deposit at,
Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne (inv. WRM 627), from 1824 until 1942, as Italian, Siena, 15th century.
Heinz Kisters (1912-1977), Cologne and Kreuzlingen.
Private collection, by 17 December 1942, and thence by descent until sold,
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 22 January 2004, lot 13, where acquired by the present owner.
Literature
W. Müller, Verzeichnis der Gemälde-Sammlung des Museums Wallraf-Richartz, Cologne, 1862, p. 128, no. 751, as Byzantine.
J. Niessen, Verzeichnis der Gemälde-Sammlung des Museums Wallraf-Richartz, Cologne, 1869, pp. 147-148, no. 785, as Sienese School, circa 1320, possibly Duccio di Buoninsegna.
J. Niessen, Verzeichnis der Gemälde-Sammlung des Museums Wallraf-Richartz, Cologne, 1877, pp. 147-148, no. 785, as Sienese School, circa 1320, possibly Duccio di Buoninsegna.
J. Niessen, Verzeichnis der Gemälde-Sammlung des Museums Wallraf-Richartz, Cologne, 1888, cat. no. 785, as Sienese School, circa 1320, possibly Duccio di Buoninsegna.
Wegweiser durch die Gemälde-Galerie des Wallraf-Richartz Museums, Cologne, 1927, p. 68, no. 627, as North Italian School, circa 1400.
Wallraf-Richartz Museum der Hansestadt Köln. Die niederlädischen, französischen, italienuschen und spanischen Gemälde, II, Cologne, 1941, pp. 190, 215, as North Italian School, circa 1400.
R. Pallucchini, La pittura veneziana del Trecento, Venice and Rome, 1964, p. 119, fig. 368, as Follower of Guariento, late 1340s.
Wallraf-Richartz Museum. Vollständiges Verzeichnis, Cologne, 1986, p. 512, as Guariento.
H. Kier and F.G. Zehnder, Lust und Verlust II. Corpus-Band zu Kölner Gemäldesammlungen 1800-1860, Cologne, 1998, p. 143, no. 272, illustrated, as Guariento.
A. De Marchi in Trecento. Pittori gotici a Bolzano, exhibition catalogue, Bolzano, 2000, pp. 146-148, no. 22, illustrated p. 147, as Circle of Guariento, circa 1360.
A. Labriola in, The Alana Collection: Italian Paintings from the 13th to the 15th Century, I, M. Boskovits ed., Florence, 2009, pp. 117-124, no. 21.
Exhibited
Bolzano, Museo Civico, Trecento: Pittori gotici a Bolzano, 29 April - 23 July 2000, no. 22.

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Francois de Poortere
Francois de Poortere International Director, Head of Department

Lot Essay

Beautifully preserved with its original molded frame and hinges, this exceptional triptych is a rare surviving example of an intact portable altarpiece from the first half of the fourteenth century. The triptych is the eponymous work of an as yet unidentified painter, the Master of the Wallraf Triptych, named by Ada Labriola in honor of the painting’s earliest known owner, Ferdinand Franz Wallraf (loc. cit.).

The marked simplicity of the central panel, contrasted with the narrative scenes crowded with figures at either side, lends a strikingly modern feel to the triptych as a whole. The expanse of gold surrounding the central figures allows the viewer to better contemplate the animated and expressive Madonna and Child, with their slender, almond shaped eyes and small pouting mouths. The artist’s expert modulation of tone in the flesh has remained intact and the faces of the Madonna and Child are subtly modeled – bright flashes of white highlighting the brows, eye lids and edges of their lips – meaning the figures appear to shimmer and glow against their gilded, ethereal backdrop.

In the lower corners of the central panel, Saints Clare and Francis of Assisi appear in miniature. Francis presents a donor, humbly depicted on a yet more diminutive scale, to receive Christ’s blessing. Clare is dressed in the characteristic brown and white striped habit worn by the Order of the Poor Clares in the Veneto. The triptych’s early history is unknown but the inclusion of the Clarissine donor might provide the key to its patron and original intended use, perhaps within a convent.

The painting’s earliest known provenance traces it to the collection of Ferdinand Franz Wallraf (fig. 1), who from humble beginnings as a tailor’s son became a university professor, theologian, botanist, Roman Catholic priest and fanatical collector. In the tumultuous years of the French Revolution, Wallraf saved what paintings, reliquaries and precious artworks he could from churches torn down in the name of secularism. He amassed a collection of some 10,000 paintings, drawings and woodcuts, around 13,000 books, over 3,000 seals, 1,000 manuscripts and deeds, numerous antiques, countless coins, cut stones, minerals, fossils, anything that might be connected to Cologne’s artistic heritage. Upon his death in 1824, Wallraf bequeathed to the city the entire collection which would become the nucleus of the Wallraf-Richartz Museum.

The triptych was included in an inventory of the Wallraf-Richartz Museum’s collections compiled in 1824-25 and later published in 1998 (loc. cit.). The inventory listed it as neu-griechisch (‘neo-Greek’), with an attribution provided by an anonymous expert – thought to be Karl Josef Ignaz Mosler – to Giotto di Bondone (A. Labriola, loc. cit., note 5). Wolfgang Müller listed the work as Byzantine in museum’s 1862 catalogue but shortly after, in 1896, Johannes Niessen published it as Sienese, dating it to circa 1320, proposing it to be possibly by Duccio di Buoninsegna (loc. cit.). Later museum catalogues, meanwhile, dated it later, to around 1400, and gave it to an unknown North Italian hand. Rodolfo Palucchini, publishing the triptych in 1964 considered it to be more specifically by a follower of Guariento and painted in the late 1340s, an idea seized upon in the 1998 repertory of paintings in nineteenth-century Cologne collections, where it is listed as by Guariento himself (loc. cit.).

On the occasion of this triptych’s exhibition in Bolzano in 2000, Andrea De Marchi recognized the painter as the same hand to have executed a Madonna and Child between Saints Peter and Regulus formerly in the Kansas University Gallery, Lawrence (fig. 2). The Lawrence Madonna had been identified at the time of its sale in 1985 as the work of Nicolò da Voltri, an artist active in Genoa from 1394 to 1417 (Sotheby’s, New York, 1 June 1985, lot 33). De Marchi himself, however, considered both works to be by an anonymous Paduan painter, working in the ambit of Guariento around 1360. Miklòs Boskovits, though convinced by the triptych’s correlation with the Lawrence Madonna, proposed in 2003 that their author was Emilian and dated the triptych between 1325 and 1350 (letter to the former owner, dated 28 February 2003). The triptych was nevertheless offered at Sotheby’s in 2004 as Paduan School, circa 1335, with Mauro Lucco cited in the catalogue entry, proposing it to be from Rimini, painted around 1340 (loc. cit.).

In an extensive entry for the altarpiece, published in 2009, Ada Labriola coined the moniker ‘Master of the Wallraf Triptych’ and added to the group of works ascribed him a Madonna and Child, known to have been with the Parisian dealer Mori in 1923, and a Saint Jerome, enthroned and venerated by a monk in the Collezione Comunale d’Arte, Bologna (figs. 3 and 4 respectively; both works indicated to Labriola by Boskovits, loc. cit.). The Mori Madonna is known only from an old photograph and appears to have been much restored, but nevertheless is stylistically consistent with the present altarpiece, particularly in the treatment of the physiognomy. Labriola dates the present triptych to no later than the first half of the fourteenth century. She suggests both the Mori Madonna and the Lawrence triptych, meanwhile, likely date to a later moment in the career of the master, after the mid-century, citing the softer modeling and influence of Barnaba da Modena (ibid.). The scholar also notes the painter’s elaborate approach to the architecture of the throne and background of the Mori Madonna as evidence of the ‘more developed compositional solutions’ he later employed (ibid.).

The master appears to revel in a variety of inspirational sources, combining the somewhat archaic, Giottesque style of the late thirteenth century with the modern innovations of his contemporaries in Rimini, Padua and Bologna. As Labriola writes, the recent compilation of this anonymous master’s works ‘delineates the profile of a new personality in the panorama of Emilian painting in the fourteenth century, an artist of notable sensitivity, cultural vivacity, and readiness to assimilate salient features of the art of the adjacent regions.’

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