The artist is named from four wing panels (1499; Grossgmain, nr. Salzburg, Church of the Assumption of the Virgin) of a dismantled Altarpiece of the Virgin and two very tall panels depicting the Virgin and Child and Christ Salvator Mundi perhaps produced in conjunction with them. The close stylistic connection of those panels with the work of Rueland Frueauf I was noted early on and the Master's as-yet anonymous appellation superseded an earlier, incorrect attribution to Bartholomäus Zeitblom.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Vienna, 1946, pp. 71-3, nos. 73 and 110-27), although the present panel was at the time unknown and remains until now unpublished as a work by the Master.
In the 1908 survey of Schloss Grafenegg, written as part of a commission for the Zentral-Kommission für Kunst- und Historische Denkmale, its close proximity to the work of Frueauf (then known as the Master R.F.) was correctly noted, as 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 (for which, see E.-M. Zimmermann, Studien zur Frueauf-Problem (Rueland Frueauf der Ältere und der Meister der Grossgmain), phil. diss., Vienna, 1975). Other works attributed to the Master include the Virgin Enthroned with Saint Thomas and Donors of 1483, the Coronation of the Virgin (both in the Prague, National Museum), a Saint Augustine and Saint Ambrose, perhaps from the predella of the Grossgmain Altar (both Vienna, Belvedere) and an Education of Christ (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts).
We are grateful to Ludwig Meyer for the attribution and for his assistance with this lot; he notes 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 dates the painting to circa 1480-85, relatively early in the Master's known oeuvre, and compares 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 the catalogue of the exhibition, Spätgotik in Salzburg. Die Malerei. 1400-1530, Salzburg, 1972, p. 128, no. 107, fig. 46b).
Scientific analysis of the supports have 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.