UNKNOWN MASTER, German
(active in 1330s in Cologne)
Winged Altarpiecec. 1330
Tempera on oak, 65 x 48 cm (centre panel), 65 x 24 cm (each wing)
From the evidence of the pious donor at the foot of the Cross, this little altar comes from the Cologne convent of the nuns of St Clare. It is a private devotional altar used for personal meditation on the life and suffering of Christ. The frame, the niches for reliquaries and the rich punching of the gold background show a link with the goldwork for which Cologne was famous. The style of drawing, with the many gestures of the figures, connects the work with Cologne manuscript illumination around 1300. With its articulated spaces, its use of highlights to model figures and structures, and its transparent colours this little altarpiece represents the starting point of Gothic painting in Cologne.