Wurzach Altarpiece
by Hans MULTSCHER

The wings of the Wurzach Altar by Hans Multscher are among the most important 15th-century German paintings. In the 18th century they formed part of the art collection of the Count of Waldburg Zeil in Schloss Wurzach in Upper Swabia, a provenance that is still reflected in their name today - the Wurzach Altar.

The panels came from a winged altar of considerable dimensions which has been lost without trace. Originally there was a carved central shrine, in which a Crucifixion group was probably represented. When the wings were closed, the altar showed four scenes relating to the Madonna; these (from top left to bottom right) were The Nativity, The Adoration of the Magi, The Descent of the Holy Ghost and The Death of the Virgin. When opened, the inner sides of the wings showed four scenes from the Passion, which flanked the central Crucifixion. Thus Christ on the Mount of Olives (top left), served as a companion-piece to Christ before Pilate (top right), while Christ bearing the Cross (bottom left), was placed opposite The Resurrection.

The original location of the altar has never been established. When it was dismantled, the front and rear sides of the wings became separated. On the two lower panels of the closed altar, showing The Descent of the Holy Ghost and The Death of the Virgin, the artist appended his signature : `bitte got für hanssen muoltscheren vo richehove burg ze ulm haut dz werk gemacht do ma zalt MCCCXXXVII'. Records show that in 1427 the Swabian artist, who came from Reichenhafen near Leutkirch, became a burgher of Ulm, where he worked not only as a painter but more often as a sculptor and engraver. The strength and solidity of the painted figures and their remarkable realism leave one in no doubt that Multscher combined the skills of both sculptor and painter, even though, in keeping with medieval practice, he may well have made use of a well-staffed workshop.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 9 minutes):
Josquin Desprez: In principio erat verbum, motet


Preview Picture Data File Info Comment
Prayer on the Mount of Olives
1437
Panel, 148 x 140 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

1000*1059
True Color
178 Kb



Christ before Pilate
1437
Panel, 148 x 140 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

1000*1128
True Color
178 Kb



Christ before Pilate (detail)
1437
Panel
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

908*982
True Color
192 Kb



Christus before Pilate (detail)
1437
Oak panel
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

1030*769
True Color
151 Kb



Christ Carrying the Cross
1437
Panel, 148 x 140 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

1000*1059
True Color
170 Kb



Resurrection
1437
Panel, 148 x 140 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

1000*1137
True Color
209 Kb



The Birth of Christ
1437
Panel, 148 x 140 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

1000*1109
True Color
163 Kb



Th Adoration of the Magi
1437
Panel, 148 x 140 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

1000*1060
True Color
167 Kb



Pentecost
1437
Panel, 148 x 140 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

1000*1108
True Color
156 Kb



The Death of the Virgin
1437
Panel, 148 x 140 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

1000*1060
True Color
158 Kb



The Death of the Virgin (detail)
1437
Panel
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

620*1324
True Color
175 Kb