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The Master of Grossgmain (active Salzburg, circa 1480-1506)
PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN (LOTS 8, 9, 11, 49 & 50)
The Master of Grossgmain (active Salzburg, circa 1480-1506)

The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception with Saints Mark and Sebastian

The Master of Grossgmain (active Salzburg, circa 1480-1506)
The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception with Saints Mark and Sebastian

on gold ground panel
45¼ x 29 in. (114.4 x 73.6 cm.)
(2)with a German School, early 16th Century, Virgin of Mercy, on gold ground panel, the panel being the separate reverse face of the above
(Presumably) August Ferdinand, Graf Breuner-Enckevoirth (1796-1877), Schloss Grafenegg, Niederösterreich, Austria, and by descent to the following,
Anonymous sale [The Property from a European Collection]; Christie's, London, 8 December 2005, lot 35 (£176,000), when acquired by the present owner.
M. Dvorák, Österreichische Kunsttopographie. Beiheft zum Band I. Schloss Grafenegg, Vienna, 1908, pp. 20 and 39-40, nos. 7-8, pls. V and VII, (the first) 'sehr charakteristisches Bild der Salzburger Schule, dem Meister R.F. nahestehend.'

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Lot Essay

The artist’s name derives from several panels of a dismantled Altarpiece of the Virgin, dated 1499, some of which are still preserved in the pilgrimage church in Grossgmain, near Salzburg. The close stylistic connection of those panels with the work of Rueland Frueauf the Elder was noted early on and the Master’s as-yet anonymous appellation superseded an earlier, incorrect attribution to Bartholomäus Zeitblom. Ludwig von Baldass was the first to compile a list of the Master’s known works (Conrad Laib und die beiden Rueland Frueauf, Vienna, 1946, pp. 71-3, nos. 73 and 110-27), although the present panel was at the time unknown.

In the 1908 survey of Schloss Grafenegg, its close proximity to the work of Frueauf, then known as The Master R.F., was correctly noted. The Master of Grossgmain is now widely regarded as the ‘dominant personality in a workshop that must probably be seen as an extension or a branch of the Frueauf workshop’ (O. Demus, ‘Zu den Tafeln des Grossgmainer Altars’, Österreichische Zeitschrift für Kunst und Denkmalpflege, xix, 1965, pp. 43-5, figs. 34-9). Certainly, the common use of the same punch for the decoration of the backgrounds of paintings confirms a direct link with Frueauf (see E.-M. Zimmermann, Studien zur Frueauf-Problem Rueland Frueauf der Ältere und der Meister der Grossgmain, dissertation, Vienna, 1975). The Master of Grossgmain paints fgures of the same type as Frueauf, but places them more freely in boxy, architectural spaces. Frueauf’s swelling draperies are replaced by smaller-scale, creased draperies. Furthermore, he chose to clothe his figures in sharp and vivid colours, as can be seen in this panel.

Other works attributed to the Master include the Virgin Enthroned with Saint Thomas and Donors of 1483, the Coronation of the Virgin (both Prague, National Museum), a Saint Augustine and Saint Ambrose, possibly from the predella of the Grossgmain Altar (both Vienna, Belvedere) and an Education of Christ (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts).

Ludwig Meyer attributed this panel to The Master of Grossgmain at the time of the 2005 sale, noting that the painting must originally have been part of an altarpiece, of which it was presumably the central panel with two wings, likely depicting saints. He dated the painting to circa 1480-85, relatively early in the Master’s known oeuvre, and compared the dominant salmon-red, black and white palette, as well as stylistic elements, including the flowing drapery and the depiction of the eyes, with other known paintings by the Master. Particularly interesting for a similar depiction of the subject by the Master is the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception in the Augustiner-Chorherrenstift, Klosterneuburg (see Spätgotik in Salzburg. Die Malerei. 1400-1530, exhibition catalogue, Salzburg, 1972, p. 128, no. 107, fig. 46b).

Scientifc analysis of the supports has confirmed that they were originally the front and reverse of the same panel, and that they must at some point in the past have been split. The painting on the reverse, depicting The Virgin of Mercy, seems, however to be by a separate hand that Ludwig Meyer suggests may date from the generation after the Master of Grossgmain, possibly active in Munich.

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