MASTER of the Housebook
(active 1475-90 in Mainz)

The Last Supper

Oak panel, 131 x 76 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

The Master of the Housebook was a witty, animated artist known from a series of courtly sketches. He was possibly active in Bruges, Freiburg, Mainz, and Ulm, where he was in the employ of Emperor Maximilian. A Passion Altar of c. 1475, now divided between Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, and Freiburg im Breisgau, conveys this master's rare gift for humanity, the physiognomies intense but beyond caricature. The Last Supper, part of the Passion Altarpiece, is seen in old-fashioned perspective, with the figures in the foreground smaller than those at the far end of the table. It includes the traditional group of Christ comforting St John, who is so overcome by learning of the Betrayal that he buries his head in Christ's lap. Judas, in the foreground, consoles himself by weighing his purse - payment for the Betrayal.