Overview

Looking up in amazement as Christ ascends into heaven are the twelve apostles. Kneeling with them is the Virgin, the only one to have a halo. Although few of the men can be identified, John the Evangelist is recognizable. He is the blond, beardless youth dressed in green who solicitously puts his arm around Mary. Surrounding the risen Christ are a group of Old Testament personages who either predicted or foreshadowed events of his life on earth.

The gold background, bright colors, and compact space reveal the lingering influence of the International Gothic. However, a new spirit of visual observation also can be detected. The sharp, angular folds of the drapery evoke the perception of real human forms beneath the material. Further, the faces of the apostles reveal a broad variety of human emotions.

This panel was once part of the high altar in the Cistercian abbey church of Marienfeld at Münster. At its center was a richly gilded sculpture of the Virgin and Child. Folding wings extended from this core with pictures on the fronts and backs. When the shutters were open, eight scenes -- including the National Gallery's painting -- revealed the story of Mary's life. In the closed positions, eight other subjects recounted Christ's Passion.

Inscription

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Part of the high altar in the abbey church of the Cistercian Cloister at Marienfeld, near Münster, completed in 1456/1457, installed 6 February 1457, until 1803.[1] Charles Léon Cardon, Brussels, by 1912.[2] Rudolph Chillingworth, Lucerne, Brussels, and Nuremberg; (sale, Galeries Fischer and Frederik Muller & Cie., Lucerne, 5 September 1922, no. 47); acquired by Jacob Walter Zwicky [d. 1956], Freiburg and Arlesheim-Basel;[3] acquired 1955 by (M. Knoedler & Co., New York; jointly owned with Pinakos, Inc. [Rudolph Heinemann]);[6] purchased 1957 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1959 by exchange to NGA.

Exhibition History

1912
Exposition de la Miniature, Palais Goffinet, Brussels, 1912, no. 2051, as "Anonyme (Ecole de Souabe, XV siècle)".
1921
Gemälde und Skulpturen 1430-1530. Schweiz und angrenzende Gebiete, Kunsthaus, Zürich, 1921, no. 46.
1934
Ausstellung: Altdeutsche Kunst, Julius Böhler, Munich, 1934, no. 38.
1944
Gemälde und Zeichnungen alter Meister. Kunsthandwerk aus Privatbesitz, Kunstmuseum, Bern, 1944-1945, no. 11.
1952
Westfälische Maler der Spätgotik 1440-1490, Landesmuseum, Münster, 1952, no. 57.

Bibliography

1907
Lippe, M. "Koerbecke, Johann." In Thieme-Becker. 37 vols. Leipzig, 1907-1950: 21(1927):175.
1922
Biermann, Georg. "Die Sammlung Chillingworth. Versteigerung am 5. September in Luzern." Der Cicerone 14 (1922): 663.
1926
Hugelshofer, Walter. "Der Hochaltar von 1457 des Klosters Marienfeld in Westfalen." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst 60 (1926/1927): 179, repro. 181.
1930
Hugelshofer, Walter. "Koerbecke und der Marienfelder Altar von 1457. Ein Beitrag zur Westfälischen malerei." Der Cicerone 22 (1930): 373.
1933
Rensing, Theodor. "Ein Beitrag zur Koerbecke-frage." Westfalen 18 (1933): 264, repro. 263.
1934
Stange, Alfred. Deutsche Malerei der Gotik. 11 vols. Berlin and Munich, 1934-1961. Munich, 1954: 6:16, 18-19.
1937
Sommer, Johannes. Johann Koerbecke, der Meister des Marienfelder Altares von 1457. Dissertation, Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilherlms-Universität zu Bonn, 1937. Münster, 1937: 16, 20-21, 26, 31-32, no. 7, pl. 10, fig. 16.
1938
Brand, Lotte. Stephan Lochners Hochalter von St. Katharinen zu Köln. Hamburg, 1938: 26-28, 40-43, 65, fig. 6.
1940
Busch, Harald. Meister des Nordens. Die altniederdeutsche Malerei 1450-1550. Hamburg, 1940: 68.
1945
Quensel, Paul. "Ausstellung alter meister in Berner Kunstmuseum," Pro Arte 4, no. 35, (March 1945): 84, repro. 88.
1952
Pieper, Paul. “Westfälische Maler der Spätgothik: Zu der Ausstellung im Landesmuseum in Münster.” Review, in Kunstchronik 5 (1952): 214.
1952
Pieper, Paul. "Westfälische Maler der Spätgotik 1440-1490. Katalog der Ausstellung des Landesmuseums." Westfalen 30 (1952): 92-93, no. 57, 94, pl. 17.
1959
Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 300, repro.
1959
Richardson, E. P., ed. "Accessions of American and Canadian Museums, April-June 1959." The Art Quarterly 22, no. 3 (Autumn 1959): 273, 275, repro.
1960
Broadley Hugh T. German Painting in the National Gallery of Art (Booklet no. 9 in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC). Washington, 1960: 2, 16-17, color repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 72, no. 1528.
1967
Stange, Alfred. Kritisches Verzeichnis der deutschen Tafelbilder vor Dürer. 3 vols. 1967-1978. Munich, 1967: 1:153, no. 498f.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture: Illustrations (Companion to the Summary Catalogue, 1965). Washington, 1968: 63, no. 1528, repro.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 186, 187, no. 1528, repro.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 147, no. 159, color repro. (In Rev. ed., New York, 1984: 147, no. 153, color repro.)
1977
Eisler, Colin. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools Excluding Italian. Oxford, 1977: 4-6, fig. 6.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 217, repro.
1986
Ford, Terrence, compiler and ed. Inventory of Music Iconography, no. 1. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York 1986:1, no. 9.
1986
Pieper, Paul. Die deutschen, niederländischen und italienischen Tafelbilder bis um 1530. (Bestandskatalogue, Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Münster, edited by Klaus Bussmann.) Münster, 1986: 166, 169, repro.
1987
Luckhardt, Jochen. Der Hochaltar der Zisterzienserklosterkirche Marienfeld. (Bildhefte des Westfälischen Landesmuseums für Kunst und Kulturegeschichte, no. 25.) Münster, 1987: 8-9, 21-23, fig. 11.
1990
Jászai, Géza. “Der ehemalige Hochaltar der Klosterkirche der Zisterzienserabtei Marienfeld: ein neuer Rekonstructionsversuch.” Westfalen 68 (1990): 33, 36, 41, 43.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 58, repro.
1993
Hand, John Oliver, with the assistance of Sally E. Mansfield. German Paintings of the Fifteenth through Seventeenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1993: 103-114, color repro. 107.
1995
Löcher, Kurt. Review of German Paintings of the Fifteenth through Seventeenth Centuries, by John Oliver Hand with the assistance of Sally E. Mansfield. Kunstchronik 43 no. 1 (January 1995): 17.

Technical Summary


[1] As, for example, on The Presentation in the Temple and Christ and the Virgin Enthroned in Heaven (both Westfalisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster), which are also from the inner wing of the altarpiece. The outer wings have orange painted edges with gold floral motifs on the bottom edges.
[2] Sommer 1937, 14, citing the documents in the Staatsarchiv, Münster, Marienfelder Akten, I, 15b, 15d.

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