UNKNOWN MASTER, Bohemian
St Bartholomew and St Thomas1395
Tempera on wood, 65,5 x 49,5 cm
Národní Galerie, Prague
The work is a fragment of the epitaph of Jan of Jeren, canon of Prague, who died in 1395 and was buried in Prague Cathedral. The inscribed panel must have been set on his tomb a short time afterwards.
The Madonna and Child may have been in the centre of the surviving right-hand part, while on the left further saints and the praying figure of the donor may have completed the composition. The Apostles Bartholomew and Thomas are standing on a narrow strip of ground in front of a shining golden background. Their figures are surrounded by abundant intricate draperies, whose edges of soft lines, corners and folds which tumble down like waterfalls seem to live a separate life independent of the bodies. The bright colours of the two saints' cloaks complement one another-as do the hues of the linings. The pink lining of the green cloak and the blue lining of the red one serve a purely decorative function.
The artist composed the two figures so as to create harmonious forms. The right-hand edge of St Bartholomew's draperies, forming a gently wavy line and the straight left-hand contour of St Thomas's mantle, which appears to continue the line of the spear, run very near each other. This narrow stripe turns the two figures into a form springing from the same basis and bending in two opposite directions. At the bottom the formation is completed by the green cloak flowing into the red one, while at the top it is enclosed by the tips of the flaying knife and of the spear which touch each other.