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The Madonna of Einsiedeln: Large Version

The Madonna of Einsiedeln: Large Version
engraving, 1466, on laid paper, without watermark, a fine impression of this very rare and highly important print, trimmed to or just inside the subject, a few tiny repairs at the sheet edges, a slightly rubbed horizontal fold, generally in very good condition
Sheet 207 x 122 mm.
Prince Albert Kasimir von Sachsen, Duke of Teschen (1738-1822); then by descent (state property of Austria since 1919).
Albertina, Vienna (see Lugt 174, without mark); de-accessioned as a duplicate after the consolidation of the collections of the Albertina and the Hofbibliothek (Imperial Court Library) in 1921.
Frits Lugt (1884-1970), Amsterdam & Paris (see Lugt 1028, without mark), with his inventory number I.1254 in pencil verso; acquired from the above in exchange on 25 June 1923.
With Alfred Strölin (1871-1954), Paris (not in Lugt, without mark); acquired from the above on 14 September 1926 (Fl. 6,000).
Herschel V. Jones (1861-1928), New York, Minneapolis; presumably acquired from the above.
Carl W. Jones (1887-1957), Minneapolis (with his label on the backboard); by descent from the above; then by descent to the present owners.
Bartsch 35; Lehrs, Hollstein 81

Edith Warren Hoffman, 'Some Engravings Executed by the Master E.S. for the Benedictine Monastery at Einsiedeln', in: The Art Bulletin, Vol. 43, no. 3 (September 1961), pp. 231-237 (another impression illustrated).
Alan Shestack, Master E.S. - Five Hundredth Anniversary Exhibition, Philadelphia Museum of Art (exh. cat.), Philadelphia, Penn., 1967, no. 67 (this impression illustrated).
Holm Bevers, Meister E.S. - Ein Oberrheinischer Kupferstecher der Spätgotik, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München & Kupferstichkabinett der Staatlichen Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz (exh. cat.), Munich, 1986-87, no. 32, pp. 44-46, ill. 33 (another impression illustrated).
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Master E.S. - Five Hundredth Anniversary Exhibition, 1967, no. 67 (catalogue by Alan Shestack).
Post Lot Text

With the following lots, we present prints by the three most influential and productive printmakers of the 15th century: the Master E.S., Israhel van Meckenem and Martin Schongauer.  The prints come from the collections of Herschel V. Jones (1861-1928) and his son, Carl W. Jones (1887-1957). The Jones family played a remarkable role in the history of collecting and patronage of the arts during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States and is particularly remembered for their support of the graphic arts.
Herschel Vespasian Jones was born into a farming family in Jefferson in upstate New York. He left school prematurely at the age of 15 and began working for the local newspaper, which he later bought - aged only 18! - and ran for six years, before selling it at a handsome profit and moving to Minneapolis. There he entered the services of another, albeit much bigger newspaper, the Minneapolis Journal. Having a particular knack for market and farming reports, his reputation and influence grew swiftly, and in 1908 he was able to buy the Minneapolis Journal by taking out an enormous loan. The Jones family remained proprietors and publishers of the newspaper until 1939.
As a bibliophile, he built - and dispersed again - four important collections over his lifetime: modern first editions, early English poetry and plays, Elizabethan literature and manuscripts, and most importantly Americana, including many important documents relating to the first European voyages across the Atlantic, and the mapping and naming of America; an interest that apparently had been sparked by his friendship with Theodor Roosevelt.
In 1916, through the intermediation of the New York dealership Frederick Keppel & Co. and the print scholar Fitzroy Carrington (1869–1954), Herschel Jones was able to acquire the collection of Western prints of William Mead Ladd (1855-1931) of Portland, Oregon, one of the earliest and most important private print collections in the country. He donated the entire collection, approximately 5300 prints, to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, thereby laying the foundations for the earliest museum department dedicated entirely to prints in the United States. Still today, the Study Room for prints and drawings at MIA is named after Herschel V. Jones. 
Following this extraordinary gift, Herschel went on to build a fine collection of old master prints of his own, which he also gifted in large parts to the Minneapolis Institute of Art ten years later. The gift, made in June 1926, included 236 old master prints which complemented his previous donation of the Ladd collection. The acquisition of the Large Madonna of Einsiedeln by the Master E.S., offered here as lot 3, took place only after this last gift to the museum, no earlier than 14 September 1926. One can assume that this was also the case with the Death of the Virgin by Martin Schongauer (lot 5).
Herschel Jones fell ill some time that same year and spent much of his remaining time at hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. This however did not seem to stop him in his collecting habits and he made some important acquisitions towards the end of his life, including the Master E.S. and Rembrandt's Lucretia of 1666 - arguably the finest painting by the Dutch master in America. He died on 24 May 1928, leaving his collection, including the Lucretia and other important old master paintings and prints, to his wife Lydia Wilcox Jones (1861-1942), who sold Lucretia at a discount to the museum in 1934. Herschel's and Lydia's eldest daughter Tessie subsequently inherited a large part of the collection,  who in turn bequeathed a further 255 prints and 13 old master paintings to MIA in memory of her father upon her death in 1967.
Some works remained with the other of their eight children, including to Carl W. Jones, who inherited the engravings by the Master E.S. and Martin Schongauer included in this sale. Carl inherited the collecting bug from his father and continued to acquire prints. He also - and significantly - developed a fascination for modern magic and sleights of cards, subjects on which he published several memorable books. It was Carl who acquired the playing card of the King of Men by Israhel van Meckenem (lot 4), the third print from the collection offered here. It must have greatly satisfied both his hereditary fondness for old master prints and his personal interest in playing cards. All three 15th century engravings remained in Carl's family for three generations and come with highly prestigious historic provenances.

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Lot Essay

In the history of European printmaking, the importance of the Master E.S. and the present Large Madonna of Einsiedeln cannot be overstated. His oeuvre is by far the largest of any printmaker until then, the most technically sophisticated and varied, and the most copied - including by Israhel van Meckenem, who may have been his apprentice (see lot 4).

Belonging to the second generation of northern engravers, the Master E.S. was the first to add a monogram to his prints. Of the approximately 314 plates known to us today, 18 bear a monogram in various versions of the letters E and S: together or alone, in capitals or small letters. He was also the second engraver to ever date his prints. Two of his prints are dated 1461, four 1466 and ten 1467. Only one other European print bears an earlier date, a small Flagellation dated 1446, by an anonymous engraver named accordingly the Master of 1446.

Of the Master E.S., nothing is known that cannot be deduced from his engravings. From some of his designs we can conclude that he was trained as a goldsmith. The inscriptions in some of his prints in Alemannic German suggest that he lived in the Upper Rhine region between Alsace, Switzerland, Lake Constance and the Breisgau, most likely in Strasbourg. His printing papers, as far as we can tell from watermarks, are mostly of Upper Rhenish or Swiss origin. His most pronounced artistic influences - the paintings of Konrad Witz and the sculpture of the Nicolaus Gerhaerts, who worked in Strasbourg in the 1460s - further locate him in this region.
His presumably earliest prints have been dated around 1450, while some of his most mature works bear the date 1467. No later date is found in his oeuvre, suggesting that by 1468 he had either died or had ceased to make engravings.

The Large Madonna of Einsiedeln, dated on the plate 1466 and inscribed with a capital Letter E, is by no means the master's largest, but arguably his finest work, displaying a systematic and varied use of different marks and lines, a remarkable understanding of space, and an astonishing attention to detail. Max Lehrs (1855-1938), the great scholar and cataloguer of 15th century engravings, described it as 'the best known and compositionally the most outstanding work by his hand' (Lehrs II, no. 81, p. 149).

Through a wide arch, we see the Virgin with crown and halo, dressed in a brocade dress and surrounded by the folds of her wide cloak, as she sits enthroned on a broad stone altar inside a small round chapel. In a wide step, the naked Christ Child stands on her knees, an apple in his hand. To her left stands an angel, to her right a saint with an abbot's staff, both holding candles. At the foot of the altar, two pilgrims, a man and woman, are kneeling in prayer. Other pilgrims stand inside the chapel: to the right a young man with long hair, about to lift his hat; another to the right, older and with cropped hair, holding his broadbrimmed hat before his chest, his leg and foot visible below the altar table; a third is approaching from the back of the chapel at right, half hidden behind by the gothic ciborium behind the altar. The exterior of the chapel is hinted at with a small plant on either side, at the edges of the image. Several of the stone blocks of the arch bear stonemason's marks. The left of the lintel bears the date 1466, the right the capital letter E in Gothic script. Further to the right hangs a wooden votive plaque. On top of the chapel, we see the Holy Trinity. Behind a gothic balustrade with a Papal Crest at centre, stand Christ and God the Father, crowned and regally dressed. As a further sign of their majesty, the balustrade is draped with brocade cloths. The Holy Ghost flies overhead. Behind them a multitude of angels has gathered, singing, playing the lute and holding a baldachin aloft. One angel holds Christ's regalia, the sceptre and orb, another a vessel of holy water for Christ to sprinkle over the Virgin and Child and the pilgrims below. God the Father holds the Scripture in one hand, the other is raised in a blessing.

The key to all this is the inscription written on the inside of the arch: Dis ist die engelwichi zu unser lieben frouwen zu den einsidlen ave gracia plenna ('This is the angel consecration of our dear Lady of Einsiedeln hail full of grace').

In the 9th century the hermit saint Meinrad was given a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary by Hildegard, Abbess of Zürich, for his hermitage in the hills to the south of the Zürichsee. The hermit shrine of the Virgin became a place of veneration, but the chapel was not formally consecrated before Meinrad was murdered in 861 AD. The place remained a hermitage, and in 934 the church and monastery of Einsiedeln was built. Nearly a century after Meinrad's death, Bishop Conrad of Constance witnessed a miracle as he was praying in the chapel: Christ and a host of angels appeared and consecrated the chapel. Whenever he subsequently tried to formally dedicate the chapel, Christ and the angels appeared again and performed the ceremony. The miracle was recognised by the Vatican and in 966 a papal bull gave the monastery the right to grant indulgences to the pilgrims. Over the following centuries, Einsiedeln became a large Benedictine Abbey and one of the most important sites of pilgrimage in central Europe. Every year on 14 September the angel consecration, or 'Engelweihe', is celebrated, and it is this miracle the engraving by the Master E.S. is depicting.

As Edith Warren Hoffman has demonstrated, it was the Benedictine Abbey who commissioned the Master E.S. to make the print. The year 1466, the date of the engraving, was the five-hundreth anniversary of the papal bull, giving the pilgrimage and the festival of the 'Engelweihe' of that year a particular importance. What is more, the chapel had suffered a fire and was destroyed, together with the original statue of the Virgin the previous year. In was reconstructed and the statue replaced with another. The celebrations in 1466, which also marked the renewal of the chapel, lasted for two weeks and attracted over 130,000 pilgrims. The Abbey had the sole right to sell votive images and objects and presumably needed the money for the reconstruction. As Warren Hoffman further points out, the saint next to the Virgin is not Meinrad, as was previously thought, but Saint Benedict, the founder of the Abbey's order. Furthermore, the Papal Crest on the balustrade refers directly to the Papal Bull and the remission of sin through the pilgrimage. The print therefore must have been issued by the Abbey itself and not by the engraver on his own behalf.

The Master E.S. engraved two other, smaller prints of the Madonna of Einsiedeln, both also bearing the date 1466. The smallest only shows the Virgin and Child with an angel and a saint in a gothic chapel. The third one, of medium size, has a short inscription ('Dicz ist dis engelwich zuon einsidlen') and shows the Virgin, Child, Angel and Saint in a different chapel, with Christ and God the Father blessing the chapel from above. The present one is by far the largest and most complex one, made for the richest pilgrims, while the smaller ones were made for people with less money and a lesser degree of literacy. Interestingly, the chapel and the Virgin and Child group looks different in each of the three engravings, indicating that they were not meant as a portrait of the miraculous statue or a souvenir of the place, but as objects of private devotion and possibly as indulgences. To the faithful, it was not statue or the image that mattered, but the Virgin Mary Herself.

Only 13 impressions of the Large Madonna of Einsiedeln are known today, with the present one being the last in private hands. All others are in public collections, in Bamberg, Basel, Berlin, Chicago (previously Wolfegg), Dresden, Hamburg, Hannover, London, Munich, Paris (Louvre), Paris (Collection Rothschild), and Vienna. The present impression compares favourably to the impression in the British Museum, printing more clearly and sharply in the finest details.

We are grateful to Dr Christof Metzger, Albertina, Vienna, and Peter Fuhring, Fondation Custodia, Paris, for their help in establishing the provenance of this lot.

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