This beautifully carved relief has been published by Christian Theuerkauff, who attributed it to the Viennese sculptor Johann Ignaz Bendl (op. cit.). Bendl, who has few fully documented extant works, was responsible for some of the reliefs at the base of the Plague Column in the Graben, Vienna, and for a fountain decorated with mythological figures now in the courtyard of the Moravské Museum in Brno.
Perhaps more relevant in the present context are two signed ivory reliefs by Bendl in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, and a series of solnhofen stone medallions with portrait profile reliefs of sybils, which are in the same museum and are attributed to Bendl (ibid., figs. 30, 32, 33, 34a and b, and 35). The ivory reliefs in particular display the same gradation from high relief among the foreground figures to a middle distance in lower relief and then a very sketchy shallow relief in the distance. There is a similar inclusion of classical architecture to provide a setting, as well as a fascination with textiles. As Theuerkauff points out, the artist has emphasised the different textures of the drapery - as is evident on the dress of the kneeling St Irene in the present relief - and creates numerous sharp-edged folds for decorative effect. The fine-grained stone has allowed the sculptor to carve with remarkable delicacy and create a work that was intended to be enjoyed at close quarters.
This relief was previously offered at Sotheby's London, 10 December 1987, lot 185, where it was described as 'South German, mid 17th century'.