Overview

Among the outstanding German artists of the period around 1500 was Hans Baldung Grien, a printmaker and painter. He produced book illustrations, devotional woodcuts, stained-glass window designs, portraits, and morality paintings as well as religious panels such as this one.

John the Baptist is here depicted to the left of Jesus. He simultaneously gestures to the lamb at his feet and to the infant, visually alluding to his own description of Christ as "the Lamb of God." The Virgin's mother, Saint Anne, although dressed in a sixteenth-century wimple, wears her traditional robe of red, a symbol of divine love. Garbed in green, symbolic of rebirth and eternal life, Mary offers Jesus an apple. This fruit, associated with the fall of Adam and Eve, here signifies Mary as the new Eve and Christ as the second Adam.

Baldung Grien's figures are symbolically, rather than realistically, depicted. Mary, for instance, is represented as a very young girl. And, although John and Jesus historically were about the same age, the Baptist is portrayed as an adult to emphasize his prophetic message. The painting was discovered in a small village church in Alsace, an area where the artist spent most of his life.

Inscription

center right on base of middle pillar of throne, in monogram: HBG; on halos, left to right: S.IOHANE; S.ANNA.; .MARIA.

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Church of the Order of Saint John in Jerusalem, Grünen Wörth, near Strasbourg, c. 1511 until probably c. 1633, and later in the Order's church in the cloister of Saint Marx, Strasbourg, probably c. 1687 until at least 1741.[1] Village church, Alsace; acquired shortly after 1870 by Dr. Georges-Joseph Wimpfen [d. 1879], Colmar; by inheritance to his daughter, Marie Emélie Jeanne Siben [d. 1951], Paris and Zimmerbach, near Colmar.[2] (Fritz Frankhausen, Basel), 1952;[3] (Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York), by 1953; purchased 1953 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1961 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1956
German Drawings: Masterpieces from Five Centuries, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum (last venue of four, travelling exhibition circulated by Smithsonian Institution), San Francisco, 1956, not in cat.
1959
Hans Baldung Grien, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe, 1959, no. 14.
1986
Gothic and Renaissance Art in Nuremberg 1400-1550, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, 1986, no. 179c (shown only in New York).

Bibliography

1934
Pariset, François-Georges. "Deux Oeuvres inédites de Baldung Grien." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 6è per., 11 (1934): 13-23.
1941
Perseke, Helmut. Hans Baldungs Schaffen in Freiburg. Freiburg i. Br., 1941: 49-50, 66-67, fig. 8.
1943
Fischer, Otto. Hans Baldung Grien. Munich, 1943: 9, 20.
1953
Koch, Carl. "Katalog der erhaltenen Gemälde, der Einblattholzschnitte und illustrierten Bücher von Hans Baldung-Grien." Kunstchronik 6 (1953): 297.
1956
Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Colllection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation 1951-56. Introduction by John Walker, text by William E. Suida and Fern Rusk Shapley. National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1956: 26, no. 5, repro.
1959
Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 302, repro.
1959
Möhle, Hans. "Hans Baldung Grien: zur Karlsruher Baldung-Ausstellung, Sommer 1959." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 22 no. 2 (1959): 128.
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: 8, 32-33, color repro.
1960
Weihrauch, Hans R. "Berichte. Deutschland." Pantheon 18 (1960): 46.
1963
Oettinger, Karl and Karl-Adolf Knappe. Hans Baldung Grien und Albrecht Dürer in Nürnberg. Nuremberg, 1963: 105, nt. 247.
1964
Tolzien, Gerd. "Baldung, Hans, genannt Grien." In Kindlers Malerei Lexikon, edited by Germain Bazin, et al. 6 vols. Zürich, 1964-1971. Zürich, 1964: 1:188.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 9
1967
Fritz, Rolf. Sammlung Becker, I: Gemälde alter Meister. Dortmund, 1967: unpaginated, under no. 1.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture: Illustrations (Companion to the Summary Catalogue, 1965). Washington, 1968: 3, no. 1614, repro.
1974
Koch, Robert A. Hans Baldung Grien: Eve, the Serpent, and Death. (Masterpieces in the National Gallery of Canada, no. 2.) Ottawa, 1974: 7.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 16, repro. 17.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 151, no. 164, repro.
1977
Eisler, Colin. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools Excluding Italian. Oxford, 1977: 29-30, fig. 32.
1977
Osten, Gert von der. "Ein Altar des Hans Baldung Grien aus dem Jahre 1511--und eine Frage nach verschollenen Werken des Malers." Zeitschrift des deutschen Vereins für Kunstwissenschaft 31 (1977): 51-61, figs. 4, 6, 8.
1979
Pariset, François-Georges. "Réflexions à propos de Hans Baldung Grien." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 6è pér., 94 (1979): 2.
1981
Marrow, James H. and Alan Shestack. Hans Baldung Grien. Prints & Drawings. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 1981. New Haven, 1981: 125, 129, 221-222, fig. 56a.
1982
Cassill, Jean Kubota. European Paintings of the 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries: The Cleveland Museum of Art Catalogue of Paintings, Part Three. Cleveland, 1982: 161-162, under no. 65.
1983
Osten, Gert von der. Hans Baldung Grien. Gemälde und Dokumente. Berlin, 1983: 21, 66-69, no. 12a, 71-74, pls. 32, 34-35.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. Washington, 1984: 151, no. 158, color repro.
1985
Borries, J.E. von. Review of Hans Baldung Grien, Gemälde und Dokumente. In The Burlington Magazine 127, no. 983 (February 1985): 97-98.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 35, repro.
1992
Heck, Christian. “Baldung Grien’s Grünen Wörth Altarpiece and Devotion to the Two St. Johns.” Metropolitan Museum of Art Journal 27 (1992): 85-99, fig. 1 and 2.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 63, repro.
1992
Mende, Matthias. "Baldung Grien, Hans." In Allgemeines Künstler-Lexicon: Die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker. [vols.] Munich and Leipzig, 1992-[unfinished]. Munich and Leipzig, 1992: 6:440.
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: 13-21, color repro. 17.
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 48 no. 1 (January 1995): 14.
2013
Ainsworth, Maryan W. and Joshua P. Waterman. German Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2013: under no. 2; 20, 22, color fig. 18, 280, nt. 4.
2013
Silver, Larry. Review of Ainsworth, Maryan W. and Joshua P. Waterman, German Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 2013). In Historians of Netherlandish Art Newsletter 30, no. 2 (November 2013): 52.

Conservation Notes

The painting support was thinned to a veneer and marouflaged to hardboard in 1953. Examination of the remaining veneer at the top and bottom edges indicated that the original support was spruce wood (sp. Picea).[1] The original support was probably comprised of five, or possibly six boards with vertically oriented grain. At the right side several long cracks suggest a sixth, very narrow plank, but there is no corresponding continuous crack on the surface to verify its position. There is a barbe at the top and bottom edges suggesting that the painting once had an engaged frame. The lateral edges are not original, but are fill material colored with wood stain.

Examination with the naked eye in flesh and white areas, and with infrared reflectography, reveals considerable underdrawing using a brush and what is probably black ink. Striations over the underdrawing, seen with the aid of a stereobinocular microscope, may indicate the presence of an intermediate, or isolation layer over the underdrawing, but the striations are not disclosed in the reflectograms.

The halos are mordant gilded, applied over the moderately thick white ground. Paint overlaps the edges of the leaf. The glazing and inscriptions are applied over the fold.

Relatively large areas of ground have flaked away, and corresponding areas of paint are missing, particularly along the cracks joining the boards. The painting also suffered generalized abrasion. There is extensive retouching in Saint John's halo, the central areas of the Virgin's halo, and much of Saint Anne's halo. Major areas of retouching exist in John's left thigh, the bottom of the child's left thigh and a portion of Anne's skirt just below it, the front of the lamb's torso, and in much of the sky at the upper left. It should be noted, however, that the background landscape is not heavily retouched and that faces and limbs are in generally good condition.

\r
[1] The identification of the wood was made by the National Gallery's scientific research department.

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