UNKNOWN MASTER, German
(active 1560-1590 in Hamburg and Lower Saxony)

Christ Blessing, Surrounded by a Donor Family

1573-82
Oil and gold on oak panel
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

In this triptych a family of seven gathers closely around the central figure of Christ as Salvator Mundi. The table in the centre is strewn with cut flowers. The relationship of the man and woman on the wings to the rest of the sitters is uncertain. One possibility is that the triptych is a traditional family epitaph or memorial tablet showing a family portrait of an older couple with their five sons and two daughters.

This work integrates temporal and eternal realms by combining the genres of the secular family portrait and the devotional image. Highly unusual is the intimate, shoulder-to-shoulder proximity of the sitters to Christ and the complete absence of prayer gestures.

No satisfactory attribution has been offered for the triptych. It is originated in Hamburg; the city depicted in Christ's orb is Hamburg, shown in a topographically accurate view from the east. Stylistic similarities to works connected with the ducal court of Braunschweig-Lüneburg in Celle, north of Hannover, strongly suggest that the painter responsible for the triptych had circle of patronage that extended beyond Hamburg and into modern-day Lower Saxony.




© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.