Master of the Ortenberg Altar

(fl. 1417)

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(flafter 1417). German painter. He is named after a small altarpiece from Ortenberg am Vogelsberg (after 1417; Darmstadt, Hess. Landesmus.) depicting the Virgin among Virgins on the middle panel and the Nativity and Adoration of the Magi on the inner faces of the wings. (There is an Annunciation by a later painter on the outer faces of the wings.) The subject-matter chosen for the main panel—the Virgin and her relatives, with female saints—suggests that it was destined for a convent, perhaps that of the Premonstratensian canonesses at St Maria Konradsdorf, near Ortenberg, and was perhaps commissioned to become the main altar after a fire at the convent church in 1417. Evidence for this is the inclusion of St Servatius, a cousin of the Virgin and patron saint of viticulture, which was also practised in Ortenberg. All the historical data suggest that the altar was made in Mainz. Among surviving examples of Middle Rhine panel painting in the ‘Soft style’ (weicher Stil), the Ortenberg Altar is alone of its type. It is distinctive in the courtliness of its basic attitude, inspired from western book illumination and stained glass, and in its association of the Virgin's nearest female relatives with three major woman saints, Agnes, Barbara and Dorothy. In conjunction with the gold background of the painted surface, the use of silver leaf as a foil for the robes produces a metallic appearance. Two badly damaged panels from a Marian altar, a Nativity (Lézignan, Aude, parish church) and Adoration of the Magi (Aschaffenburg, Schloss Johannisburg Staatsgal.), may be early works by the same Master.

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

Subjects: Renaissance Art.

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