UNKNOWN MASTER, German
(active 1450-1470 in Cologne)
Vision of St John the Evangelistc. 1450
Oil on oak panel, 132,3 x 161,5 cm
In a mandala of two concentric circle-shaped rainbows the Almighty is seated upon a throne crowned with a stone canopy in front of which are seven burning lamps. God is surrounded by four winged creatures covered with eyes: a lion, a bull, an eagle and a man. Between the two rainbows are seated twenty-four elders `robed in white and wearing gold crowns'. They are playing the viol and the harp while the lamb is about to clasp the sealed book between its forefeet. All this is a literal though simplified rendering of Revelation 4:2-7. At bottom left sits John the Evangelist on the Island of Patmos and to the right the donors, Hermann Scherfgin, councillor and burgomaster of Cologne, and his wife Bela Hirsch, are witnessing the vision.
The work was created c. 1450 and was probably intended for St Laurenz's Church in Cologne, where the principals had a priedieu. The anonymous master is referred to as the Master of the Vision of St John.
The composition of the apocalyptic vision is in keeping with the Cologne tradition. Memling's Apocalypse (St John Altarpiece, 1474-79, Memlingmuseum, Bruges] is undoubtedly a development and refinement of the concept on which this painting was based.