MASTER of the Trebon Altarpiece
(active in 1380-1400 in Bohemia)
Tempera on spruce, 132 x 92 cm
Národní Galerie, Prague
We know nothing about this master, and have to deduce everything from his pictures. He was named after his principal work, the former altarpiece in the Augustinian Canons' church in Wittingau, now Trebon, in southern Bohemia. Its high altar was consecrated in 1378; the altarpiece was perhaps already completed at this point, or finished soon afterwards. The Master of Trebon must certainly have been active by no later than 1395, since the Jérén epitaph of this date makes clear stylistic references to his art. His paintings for Wittingau coincided with the reform of the monastery, in which the emperor played an active role. Hence, too, it is suspected that his workshop was in Prague, rather than in southern Bohemia. The master employed assistants on the Wittingau Altar. He had a large workshop and was extremely influential in his own day We can only speculate about his artistic origins. He shows no evidence of any links with Italian art. His starting-point was undoubtedly older Bohemian painting. The Master of Trebon may also have been influenced by Franco-Flemish panel painting. In his innovative interpretation of subject and composition, and above all as a colourist, the Master of Trebon is outstanding amongst the artists of central Europe between 1350 and 1400.
The retable which once stood on the high altar of the Augustinian Canons' church in Trebon today survives only in fragments. It is nevertheless clear that the Resurrection panels, formerly visible on the weekday side of the altar, is the work of a master of European standing. The intensity with which the artist has re-thought and re-interpreted his subject is also clear. The risen Christ has floated through and out of the closed and sealed tomb. We are shown not the moment of resurrection, but the state of being resurrected. The painter presents the event as a true miracle. The watchmen fix their eyes on the apparition as if entranced.