UNKNOWN MASTER, Hungarian
(active around 1520)
Saint Anne with the Virgin and the Childc. 1520
Tempera on pine-wood, 124 x 84 cm
Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest
The painting originates from Eperjes.
In a votive picture donated by Senator János Hütter this subject is fully represented: the painter also included portraits of the donor and his sons. Behind him his patron saint, John the Evangelist, is seen standing with his right arm resting on the shoulder of the praying figure. Another rare addition is the figure of St. Joseph behind the Virgin. The interior may have been inspired by a Dürer print: the spacious effect produced by the barrel vault and the ample use of Renaissance style architectural decorative element were surely meant to create an atmosphere of solemnity. The balusters of the terrace railing closely resemble those of the outside staircase of the Town Hall in Bártfa, completed in 1509 and considered a novelty in the whole neighbourhood at that time.
The main motif of the skilfully painted landscape in the background, namely the mill to which people are seen carrying corn for grinding, is evidently not just a charming genre scene but is also of symbolic significance. Just as the corn has to be ground between mill-stones to make flour which thus is the basis of the bread for the Eucharist, so Jesus, held with anxious care and great reverence between the two saintly women and touched by them only through a clean white veil, has to die a bitter and painful death to bring about the redemption of mankind.
The panel is strikingly Augsburgian in style, for it aspires to a very Italianate appearance which the master tries to attain with his putti, architectural details and other small motifs. The face of the Senator recalls Dürer's Fugger portrait. This odd resemblance may be due to the fact that the Thurzó-Fugger mining and trading company was at the height of its power and activity in those years and it may have been through this family that the master was subjected to this otherwise rare artistic influence.