We are grateful to Mr Ludwig Meyer for confirming the attribution of this pair of panels to the Tyrolian artist Friedrich Pacher. They comprised the interior of two outer wings of an altarpiece (the subsequent lot comprising the exterior panels of the same wings), for a shrine dedicated to Saint Korbian in the church dedicated to that Saint in Thal, near Linz in Austria. Datable to around 1498, this elaborate altarpiece comprised painted panels and polychrome wood carving in an ornate gothic frame. The various elements were subsequently dismantled and presumably sold separately. The centrepiece of the shrine, a sculpture of Saint Korbian, is preserved in the Pfarrkirche in Linz, although other parts remain untraced to this day.
Friedrich Pacher is generally thought to be the brother of Michael Pacher (1462-1498), although their kinship is unproven due to a lack of documentary evidence. Both artists specialised in producing elaborate altarpieces, combining panel-painting and sculpture, around the Tyrol. Michael is known to have been master of a workshop in Bruneck (now Brunico, Italy), from at least 1467 and it is highly likely that this was where the younger Friedrich served his apprenticeship. Only one signed work by Friedrich survives, a Baptism of 1483 (formerly in the Hospital of the Holy Ghost, Bressanone, now in the Frauenkirche, Munich), and this remains the basis for the many attributions that make up a considerable oeuvre, which suggests that Friedrich, like his brother, also employed a sizeable workshop.
Perhaps a more apt comparison with this pair of panels is one of Michael Pacher's major commissions for an altarpiece dedicated to the Father's of the Church (Alte Pinakothek, Munich). Here the Holy Fathers are depicted seated within pierced gothic niches, the light catching their elaborate drapery. In Friedrich's panels the Saints Florian of Lorch and Mary Magdalene are also placed under comparable gothic niches, each standing in a sculptural pose, with similarly articulated drapery. Yet while Michael depicts his figures in real space, with a host of additional characters seen in perspective (revealing his knowledge of Paduan art and in particular the influence of Mantegna), Friedrich exhibits a more archaizing tendency in his use of gold backgrounds and more stylized facial features. Nevertheless Friedrich too could not remain untouched by influences from the South, and on the outer panels (see the next lot) the gothic tracery has given way to a shell-topped niches.