Master of the Heisterbach Altar

(c. 1440—1450)

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(fl Cologne, c. 1440–c. 1450). German painter. His name is derived from the original location of a large altarpiece (?before 1448) with double pairs of wings, the Cistercian abbey of Heisterbach near Bonn (dissolved 1806; partly destr. 1809). The untraced central section, which may have been carved, purportedly showed Christ and Six Apostles. The pairs of wings can be clearly reconstructed. In its closed state it showed St Ursula (Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Mus.) and St Gereon (?Cassius; Munich, Alte Pin.), with their companions. The first set of wings showed 16 scenes from the Life of Christ (12, Munich, Alte Pin.; 4, Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Mus.) and the second set of wings Apostles and SS Benedict and Bernard, were shown in painted tabernacles (Munich, Alte Pin.). This inner view, with relic skulls behind tracery openings in the lowest level, evidently followed the layout of relic-bearing altarpieces. Although the elongated, soft and somewhat spiritless figure types were still clearly orientated towards prototypes from c. 1400 to c. 1435, there are also unmistakable references to Stefan Lochner's paintings. Also attributed to the Master are two intimate panels of the Virgin and Child (priv. col.) and an altarpiece triptych with a central Crucifixion and at the sides the Virgin with the Twelve Apostles (c. 1445; Munich, Alte Pin.; ?ex-Cologne). The Master of the Heisterbach Altar was a conservative painter, not particularly creative and probably without contact with the progressive forces of Netherlandish art. Still bound by the Cologne tradition exemplified by the Master of St Lawrence (c. 1415–c. 1430), he could not distance himself from the style of Lochner, though he can hardly have been the latter's pupil as was formerly conjectured.

From The Grove Encyclopedia of Northern Renaissance Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Renaissance Art.