PACHER, Michael
(b. ca. 1435, Bruneck, d. 1498, Salzburg)

Coronation of the Virgin between St Wolfgang and St Benedict

Polychrome pine
Parish Church, Sankt Wolfgang

The picture shows the central section of the St Wolfgang Altarpiece.

The echo of Strasbourg art reverberated in different ways in the Alpine regions in the late fifteenth century: distinctly in Austria and in Switzerland, more discreetly in the Tyrol. From the workshop of Michael Pacher came several carved and painted altarpieces intended for Tyrolean churches like that of Gries (1471-75) or for more distant places: such are the famous altarpiece of St Wolfgang in the Salzkammergut and that of Salzburg (1484-98) destroyed in 1709.

Stylistic divergences between the painted panels and the sculptured sections of the St Wolfgang altarpiece led to the mistaken belief that Pacher was not both the painter and sculptor, as he is now generally regarded to have been. While the scenes viewed in perspective on the St Wolfgang wing panels reveal specific contacts with Italian painting, in particular the works of Jacopo Bellini and Andrea Mantegna, showing a conception of space already inspired by the Renaissance, the luxuriant Coronation of the Virgin which occupies the central panel is one of the great masterpieces of Late Gothic. Its style derives mainly from the art of the Swabian sculptor Hans Multscher.

The scene forms a complex whole of a profuse but skillfully ordered richness centred around God the Father and the kneeling Virgin. The monumental figures are enveloped in ample garments with breaks and tubular folds running through them which form broad, well-defined transversal lines between the smooth areas. The broad fleshy faces, typical of Pacher, resemble those of the painted figures which also display the same plastic density as the sculptures.

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