These panels were among thirty scenes of an extensive narrative cycle that formed part of a large altarpiece from the Neustädter Marienkirche in Bielefeld, Westphalia. They were created two decades before panel painting underwent a qualitative revolution in the art of Jan van Eyck, Robert Campin and Rogier van der Weyden, who achieved a new sense of realism in their works. The artist, one of the foremost painters of the International Gothic style in northwest Germany, still adhered to the traditional gilded background, although the inclusion of a horizon and some schematic natural motifs indicate an outdoor setting for both scenes.
This panel and a scene showing the Flagellation of Christ (MMA 2001.216.2) come from a large dismantled retable probably made for the high altar of the former Collegiate Church (Kollegiatstift) of Sankt Maria und Sankt Georg, now the Neustädter Marienkirche, in Bielefeld. One of the key monuments of late medieval painting in Westphalia, completed in 1400, the altarpiece was a triptych with folding wings about 6.56 meters wide when fully opened and about 2.18 meters high, including its lost frame. In the open state, it displayed a large central image of the Virgin and Child enthroned in the company of saints, flanked by thirty smaller scenes ranging from God Warns Adam about the Tree of Knowledge, through the life of the Virgin Mary and the Passion of Christ, to the Last Judgment, all on gold ground. The small scenes were arranged in three rows of ten, with the subjects progressing chronologically across each row, skipping over the Virgin and Child at center, from the upper left to the lower right. The folding wings displayed nine scenes each; the rest of the small scenes belonged structurally to the central panel and were thus immobile. The Museum’s Crucifixion is from the far right of the bottom row of the left wing. The internal divisions of the altarpiece were achieved with applied red strips decorated with rosettes at their intersections. The lost exterior decoration of the wings was probably painted either with standing saints or nonfigural ornaments.
The central panel of the Bielefeld Altarpiece with its enthroned Virgin and Child and twelve New Testament scenes remains in the Marienkirche in Bielefeld. After the retable was dismantled in the course of church renovations in 1840–41, the wings were cut along their horizontal divisions, creating six three-scene fragments. It was in that state that all but one of the fragments were described (Förster 1847) and then catalogued (Krüger 1848) in the collection of Carl Wilhelm August Krüger of Minden, who probably acquired them from the church about 1840. Subsequently, the wing fragments were further divided into the individual scenes now found at the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin; the Oetker Collection and Marienkirche in Bielefeld; the Metropolitan Museum, New York; and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Concerning attribution, it has long been recognized that the Bielefeld Altarpiece is by the Master of the Berswordt Altarpiece, named after a retable of the Crucifixion now in the Marienkirche, Dortmund, which bears the coat of arms of the Berswordt family of that city. With a project as extensive as the Bielefeld Altarpiece, the involvement of assistants in most stages can be taken for granted. The current compromised condition of many of the altarpiece’s parts, including the MMA Flagellation, for example, which has sustained much damage in the past, necessarily frustrates any effort, as attempted in some of the literature, to distinguish between the master’s contributions and those of the workshop, assuming that such distinctions were discernible at all in the original state.
Documents of the commission are not known to have survived. The patronage of the church’s college of canons has been put forth as a possibility, with the canon Hermann Crusing (who died shortly after 1397) possibly being influential in the process. Thus far, however, Pfeiffer (2009) has made the most convincing case for patronage in the persons of Wilhelm of Jülich, Duke of Berg (ca. 1348–1408), and his wife Anna of Bavaria (1346–1415), to whose territory Bielefeld belonged as part of the county of Ravensberg, and whose ancestors founded the Marienkirche and were entombed in its choir.
With its secure date of 1400, the Bielefeld Altarpiece has played a pivotal role in the recent reevaluation of the Master of the Berswordt Altarpiece. The consensus view at present dates the rest of the master’s oeuvre before 1400—including the Berswordt Altarpiece in Dortmund, for which a date of 1431 has been maintained at times—thus overturning the old notion of the anonymous master as artistically dependent on Conrad von Soest, the greatly important Westphalian painter whose earliest surviving work dates from 1403. This reconsideration increasingly posits the Master of the Berswordt Altarpiece as a significant figure in the reception of artistic ideas emerging from France and the southern Netherlands and in the stylistic development of art in Westphalia and nearby Cologne.
[2014; adapted from Waterman 2013]
The support of is composed of two oak boards that originated in western Germany; the wood grain is oriented vertically. The boards are joined by tongue and groove. On the reverse of the panel there is evidence of the lap joint that connected it to the adjacent panel on the right, of a dowel for connecting framing elements on the upper left, and of a recess along the left side, where an original hinge was located. The presence of that dowel and the recess confirms that the panel was located in the bottom right of the inner left wing of the altarpiece. There is an original layer of lead white on the panel’s reverse, which has been covered thickly with wax. Two modern, horizontal crossbars have been attached to the panel with screws. Dendrochronological analysis of the panel indicated an earliest possible fabrication date for the painting of 1342; however, analysis of the boards in other parts of the altarpiece provided a later terminus post quem—an earliest possible fabrication date of 1373—for the whole ensemble. Fabric was glued to the panel supports of both The Flagellation (2001.216.2) and The Crucifixion and before the white ground preparation was applied. There is no apparent priming layer. In both paintings the ground was incised to indicate the areas to be gilded. In this panel, the position of Christ’s Cross is designated with ruled lines. The halos of the Virgin and Saint John are defined with incised lines and enhanced with punched decoration. In both panels the gilding that forms the backgrounds was applied directly to the ground. Ground gilding (called Leimvergoldung in German) has been documented in North European paintings that date, for the most part, from the thirteenth century. The smoothed ground layer is coated with an aqueous adhesive such as animal glue, to which the gold leaf is applied and then burnished and tooled, as desired. The artist relied on a layering technique—with particular emphasis on scumbles—to achieve color effects and to create volume. The blended brushstrokes and creamy appearance of the paint suggest that the medium could be a "fatty" tempera, in which oil is mixed with an egg-yolk binder. The use of this medium has been reported in studies of other paintings from the same altarpiece. Overall the paintings are in fair condition; however, the surfaces are worn along the edges of an extensive crack pattern, and abrasion from harsh cleaning has increased the visibility of the original underlying fabric. The brown painted borders on both panels are not original. Examination with the stereomicroscope reveals fragments of an opaque red below the brown overpaint; this may perhaps be fragmentary evidence of the red and white patterned border present on other panels of the altarpiece. When the surfaces of the paintings are examined in normal light, some underdrawing in the form of cursory contours applied with a liquid medium is visible. Examination with infrared reflectography did not reveal any further underdrawing, although investigations of other panels attributed to the same artist have found underdrawing executed with brush, red chalk, and possibly metalpoint. [2013; adapted from German Paintings catalogue]
Neustädter Marienkirche, Bielefeld, Westphalia (1400–1840; wings of altarpiece, including this panel, sold or given to Krüger); Carl Wilhelm August Krüger, Minden (1840–54; cat., 1848, no. 4 [this scene joined to two others, "Christ before Pilate" and "Christ Carrying the Cross"], erroneously as from the "Stiftskirche zu Schildesche zu Bielefeld," as by a Westphalian master, end of 14th century, sold to National Gallery, London); National Gallery, London (1854–57; sale, Christie's, London, February 14, 1857, no. 8 [this scene joined to two others, see above], as Unknown, end of 14th century, for £4.10.0 to Hermann); [Hermann, London, from 1857]; [Spanish Gallery, London, until 1936]; [Böhler, Lucerne, 1936–37]; [Spanish Gallery, London, 1937–39]; [Durlacher, New York, 1939–43; sold to MMA]
Buffalo. Albright Art Gallery. "Masterpieces of Art," March 20–April 20, 1942, unnumbered cat. (lent by Durlacher Bros., New York).
Lexington, Va. Washington and Lee University. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art Loan Exhibit," October 30, 1950–January 15, 1951, no. 4 (as by German, Westphalian painter, unknown–Beginning XV century).
Athens, Ga. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia. February 15–April 5, 1951, no catalogue?
Münster. Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte. "Westfälische Malerei des 14. Jahrhunderts," March 22–May 17, 1964, no. 93.
Bielefeld. Städtisches Museum. "Gotische Kunst in Bielefeld," June 7–July 19, 1964, no. 10.
Leopold von Ledebur. Minden-Ravensburg: Denkmäler der Geschichte, der Kunst und des Altertums. 1825, pp. 125–26 [published under this title in 1934, G. H. Griese, ed.], describes the altarpiece, then intact in the Marienkirche, Bielefeld, as having a central scene with Mary as the Queen of Heaven holding the Christ Child, flanked by six scenes on either side and nine scenes on each of two wings; comments on the work's damaged state and notes that a date of 1400 is recorded on its frame; links the complex with a document of 1399 granting Johann Steinen, benefactor, permission to erect an altar devoted to the Holy Cross and Saint Jerome for which he would provide ornament.
[J. D. Passavant?]. "Beiträge zur Kenntniß der alten Malerschulen in Deutschland vom 13ten bis in das 16te Jahrhundert." Kunstblatt 22 (December 16, 1841), p. 415, mentions an altarpiece of 1400 said to be in the church of Bielefeld.
E. F[örster]. "Die Gemäldesammlung des Herrn Geh. Oberregierungsraths Krüger in Minden." Kunstblatt 28 (February 4, 1847), p. 21, publishes the wings, then in the Krüger collection, as the work of a Westphalian artist of the 14th century, apparently a follower of Master Wilhelm of Cologne; observes that the wings come from the Bielefeld area, and correspond stylistically with the altarpiece on the high altar of the Bielefeld church, whose frame, now destroyed, bore an inscription stating that the work was already in place in 1400.
Verzeichnis der Gemäldesammlung des Geheimen Regierungsrathes Krüger zu Minden. Zum Gebrauch bei deren Besichtigung. Minden, 1848, no. 4 [reprinted in Ref. Fritz 1951, p. 87], includes it in a group of three panels attributed to an "altwestphälischer Meister": Christ before Pilate, Christ Carrying the Cross, the Crucifixion; erroneously claims that these pictures came from "der Stiftskirche zu Schildesche bei Bielefeld".
G. F. Waagen. "Nachträge zur zweiten Ausgabe von Kugler's Handbuch der Geschichte der Malerei, etc." Deutsches Kunstblatt 1, no. 39 (1850), p. 308, in this addendum describes the complete altarpiece as: "Zu Bielefeld in der neustädter Kirche der Hochaltar mit Flügeln, unten mit der Jareszahl M°CCCC° bezeichnet"; attributes it to a weak local master, somewhat under the influence of Master Wilhelm of Cologne.
Wilhelm Lübke. Die Mittelalterliche Kunst in Westfalen. Leipzig, 1853, p. 343, publishes the central panel in Bielefeld as a Westphalian work from the end of the 14th century and notes that the features and gestures of the figures are similar in their idealized sweetness to the art of Master Wilhelm.
H. G. Hotho. Die Malerschule Huberts van Eyck: Nebst deutschen Vorgängern und Zeitgenossen. Vol. 1, Geschichte der Deutschen Malerei bis 1450. Berlin, 1855, pp. 261–63, identifies the panels from the Krüger collection as earlier works by the painter of the Bielefeld Altarpiece, not realizing that they were originally a part of this altarpiece; observes that the artist was a contemporary of Master Wilhelm, closely connected with the school of Cologne.
Carl Schnaase. Geschichte der bildenden Künste. Vol. 4, Die Spätzeit des Mittelalters bis zur Blüthe der Eyck'schen Schule. Düsseldorf, 1874, pp. 430–31, compares the Bielefeld altarpiece and the London panels [ex. Krüger] stylistically with the predella of the main altarpiece in the Osnabrück Marienkirche, not realizing that the London panels were originally a part of the Bielefeld Altarpiece.
[J. B.] Nordhoff. "Die Soester Malerei unter Meister Conrad." Bonner Jahrbücher 68 (1880), pp. 86–87, finds the main panel in Bielefeld and the related panels from the Krüger collection stylistically similar to the Crucifixion altarpiece in the Marienkirche, Dortmund, which he asserts was commissioned by the Berswordt brothers in 1431; considers the Bielefeld Altarpiece probably the earliest work of this master who was influenced by Conrad von Soest.
Theodor Jordan. "Geschichte der Neustädter Kirche." Jahresbericht des historischen Vereins für die Grafschaft Ravensberg zu Bielefeld 4 (1882), pp. 6–7, 16, asserts that the wings of the altarpiece were given to an art lover from Minden in 1840.
D. Heinrich Otte. Handbuch der Kirchlichen Kunst-Archäologie des Deutschen Mittelalters. Ed. Ernst Wernicke. Vol. 2, 5th ed. Leipzig, 1884, p. 630, ascribes the panel in the Bielefeld church, the main altarpiece of the Dortmund Marienkirche, and a Death of the Virgin, flanked by an Annunciation and an Adoration of the Magi from 1422–23 (Provinzial-Museum, Münster) to the same anonymous master of the Westphalian school.
Carl Aldenhoven. Geschichte der kölner Malerschule. Ed. Ludwig Scheibler and Carl Aldenhoven. Lübeck, 1902, pp. 112, 386 nn. 211–211a, attributes the altarpiece and its dispersed wings to a master of the school of Soest and dates it between 1410 and 1420, although he is aware that Waagen [Ref. 1850] recorded a date of 1400 on the frame; notes that the composition of the central scene in general repeats that of a Virgin and Child with Saints from Cologne [now Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art].
A. Ludorff, ed. Die Bau- und Kunstdenkmäler des Kreises Bielefeld-Stadt. Münster, 1906, p. 13, pl. 10 (includes tracing of this panel), attributes the altarpiece to the school of Soest, noting that the wings had gone to London.
Hermann Schmitz. Die mittelalterliche Malerei in Soest. Münster, 1906, p. 137, discusses the central panel and states that two altars were established in the Bielefeld Marienkirche in 1399.
Grete Dexel-Brauckmann. "Lübecker Tafelmalerei in der ersten Hälfte des 15. Jahrhundert." Zeitschrift des Vereins für lübeckische Geschichte 19 (1918), pp. 28–30, 32, postulates a French model for the central scene with the Virgin and Saints, comparing it to the Carrand diptych in the Bargello, Florence; notes a close connection between the Bielefeld Altarpiece and one from Holstein (now Altertums Museum, Kiel).
Carl Hölker. Meister Conrad von Soest. Münster, 1921, p. 43, dates the Bielefeld Altarpiece later than the Virgin and Child with Saints in the Johnson Collection, which he suggests is Westphalian, but supports Dexel-Brauckman's [Ref. 1918] view that the design for this scene relies on a French model; also ascribes to the painter of the Bielefeld Altarpiece a predella in the Marienkirche, Osnabruck, and the Passion altarpiece in the Marienkirche, Dortmund.
P. J. Meier. "Werk und Wirkung des Meisters Konrad von Soest." Westfalen 1 (1921), pp. 31, 60–61, sees the influence of Conrad von Soest in the Bielefeld Altarpiece, citing the type of Christ on the Cross in the present work in partiuclar.
Bella Martens. Meister Francke. Hamburg, 1929, vol. 1, pp. 160–61, suggests that both the central scene of the Bielefeld Altarpiece and the Johnson picture derive from a French model; in a caption dates the central panel about 1415.
P. J. Meier. "Konrad von Soest: Ein Nachtrag." Westfalen 16, nos. 1–6 (1931), p. 44, attempts the first reconstruction of the Bielefeld Altarpiece, omitting the three documented Adam and Eve panels and including three hypothetical scenes from the story of Saints Joachim and Anne.
Rolf Fritz. "Ein Flügelbild des Bielefelder Altares im Deutschen Museum." Berliner Museen 53 (1932), pp. 9–12, proposes a slightly different reconstruction of the altarpiece, including all eighteen documented wing panels as part of interior wings, probably with a few monumental figures on the exterior, as was common in Westphalia; sees the Bielefeld Altarpiece, the Osnabrück predella panels, and the altarpiece with the Crucifixion in the Dortmund Marienkirche as closely related and probably from the same workshop under the influence of Conrad von Soest, but not from the same hand; despite the date of 1400 reported to have been on the frame, maintains that the Bielefeld Altarpiece is only possible in the 1420s after Conrad von Soest's Niederwildungen Altarpiece [Stadtkirche, Bad Wildungen] and the Goldene Tafel [Landesgalerie, Hanover].
Hans Kornfeld. "A Westphalian Altarpiece." Burlington Magazine 62 (1933), pp. 161–65, accepts Fritz's [Ref. 1932] reconstruction of the altarpiece, but retains the traditional date of 1400; cites a document from that year in the Bielefeld archives that he believes describes the altar: "altar dei genetricis Marie, sancti Jeronimi, sancterum Crucis et Ursule virginis," suggesting that Saints Jerome and Ursula were on the exterior wings.
Alfred Stange. Deutsche Malerei der Gotik. Vol. 3, Norddeutschland in der Zeit von 1400 bis 1450. Berlin, 1938, pp. 42–47, dates the Bielefeld Altarpiece to the beginning of the fifteenth century, and has no objection to it preceding Conrad von Soest's Niederwildungen Altarpiece [see Ref. Fritz 1932]; describes its painter as a contemporary of Conrad, whose deviations from his more refined style are due to the retention of an older manner of expression rather than a lack of skill; calls the Berswordt altarpiece in Dortmund a later work by the same hand.
Albright Art Gallery. Gallery Notes 9 (April 1942), unpaginated, comments on the loan by Durlacher Brothers of three panels from the altarpiece, including the present work.
Margaretta Salinger. "A Westphalian Crucifixion." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 3 (February 1945), pp. 137–41, ill., finds the artist closer to the earlier tradition of Master Bertram than to Conrad von Soest and his followers in Westphalia.
Kurt Steinbart. Konrad von Soest. Vienna, 1946, p. 41, dates the Bielefeld Altarpiece shortly before 1400, observing that the artist was relatively independent of Conrad von Soest and probably active in Dortmund.
Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 164–65, ill., as by an "Unknown Westphalian Painter, Beginning of the XV Century".
Julius S. Held. "Book Reviews: Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta M. Salinger . . ., 1947." Art Bulletin 31 (June 1949), p. 141, notes [erroneously] that the picture "shows evidence of an earlier transfer on canvas".
Rolf Fritz inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 37, Leipzig, 1950, p. 189, lists the Bielefeld altarpiece under "Meister des Kreuzigungsaltars in der Dortmunder Marienkirche," and attributes it to "the same workshop" as the Berswordt altar.
Paul Pieper. "Konrad von Soest und sein Kreis: Zu der Ausstellung des Dortmunder Museums in Schloß Cappenberg." Kunstchronik 3 (1950), p. 148, ascribes the Bielefeld Altarpiece not to a follower of Conrad von Soest, but to a contemporary of the same age or older who worked in the tradition of Master Bertram, and who came under the influence of the art of the West; dates the Berswordt Altarpiece before the work in Bielefeld, in agreement with an oral opinion expressed by Stange at the time the exhibition catalogue was under preparation.
Rolf Fritz. "Acht unbekannte Tafeln des Bielefelder Altares, zugleich ein Beitrag zum Meister des Berswordtaltares." Westfalen 28 (1950), pp. 193–202, pl. 96, publishes eight of the dispersed scenes from the altar wings, in which he sees the influence of Master Bertram, and comments on the influence of French painting and illumination in the main scene; dates the altarpiece about 1400 and notes that between 1398 and 1414 at least eight altars—not altarpieces—are mentioned in the Marienkirche in the Bielefeld archives, making it difficult to identify a patron; characterizes the artist, to whom he also attributes the Berswordt Altarpiece (noting that this altar was dedicated in 1397), as preparing the way for Conrad von Soest.
[Rolf Fritz], ed. Conrad von Soest und sein Kreis. Exh. cat., Schloss Cappenberg, Selm. Dortmund, 1950, unpaginated, no. 26, fig. 26.
Rolf Fritz, ed. "Der Katalog der Gemäldesammlung Krüger zu Minden." Westfalen 29, no. 1 (1951), p. 95 [annotated reprint of Ref. Krüger 1848].
Ingeborg Eckert. Ein Altargemaelde der Gotik. Bielefeld, 1956, pp. 23, 68, ill. pp. 28, 69.
Michael Levey. National Gallery Catalogues: The German School. London, 1959, p. 113.
F. G. Grossmann, ed. German Art 1400–1800 from Collections in Great Britain. Exh. cat., City of Manchester Art Gallery. [Manchester], , p. 9.
Alfred Stange. "Eine unbekannte westfälische Tafel." Niederdeutsche Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte 2 (1962), pp. 181–86 n. 2, dates the Bielefeld Altarpiece at the beginning of the fifteenth century and the Berswordt Altarpiece earlier, possibly before 1390.
I[ngeborg]. Eckert Städtisches Museum. Gotische Kunst in Bielefeld, 1250–1500 (), pp. 6–7, 12, 29, no. 10, ill. p. 38.
Wolfgang Eckhardt. "Westfälische Malerei des 14. Jahrhunderts im Landesmuseum Münster." Weltkunst 34 (January 1964), p. 318.
Paul Pieper. Westfälische Malerei des 14. Jahrhunderts [published in Westfalen, vol. 42, nos. 1-2, 1964]. Exh. cat., Landesmuseum Münster. Münster, 1964, pp. 17–18, 71–74, no. 93, ill., calls the complex one of the great altarpieces of the period, observing that it must have been produced by an entire workshop rather than a single artist; considers the lateral panels largely workshop productions; notes that the original support was canvas applied to oak.
J. W. von Moltke. "Letters: Lost Panels of a Bielefeld Altar-piece." Burlington Magazine 106 (May 1964), p. 237.
Georg Troescher. Burgundische Malerei. Berlin, 1966, vol. 1, pp. 158, 282–83, dates the altarpiece both about 1410–20 and about 1430.
Alfred Stange. Kritisches Verzeichnis der deutschen Tafelbilder vor Dürer. Vol. 1, Köln, Niederrhein, Westfalen, Hamburg, Lübeck und Niedersachsen. Munich, 1967, pp. 137–38, no. 447h.
Wieland Koenig. Studien zum Meister von Liesborn. Beckum, 1974, p. 61, pl. 76 (tracing of composition).
David Robertson. Sir Charles Eastlake and the Victorian Art World. Princeton, 1978, p. 162 n. 2.
Friedrich Jacobs. Der Meister des Berswordt-Altares. Göppingen, 1983, pp. 7–8, 10 n.4, pp. 20–25, 115–16, 156–59, 161–62, 208, 214–15, fig. 57, is inclined to view the altarpiece as a work paid for from the church's own funds rather than by a private donor; discusses Kornfeld's [Ref. 1933] identification of the Bielefeld Altarpiece with an altar devoted to the life of the Virgin and Saints Jerome and Ursula cited in a 1400 document, but finds it improbable that these saints appeared on exterior wings as Kornfeld suggests.
Introduction by James Snyder inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Renaissance in the North. New York, 1987, p. 86, colorpl. 55.
Eva Pieper-Rapp-Frick. "Der Flügelaltar der Bielefelder Marienkirche." St. Marien in Bielefeld, 1293–1993. Ed. Johannes Altenberend et al. Bielefeld, 1993, pp. 307–11, 343–44.
Brigitte Corley inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 20, New York, 1996, p. 630, notes that "the uneven artistic quality [of the Bielefeld Altarpiece] suggests inexperience or workshop participation".
Brigitte Corley. Conrad von Soest: Painter among Merchant Princes. London, 1996, pp. 78–82, 216–17, dates the altarpiece 1400 and observes that it shows the signs of workshop collaboration; attributes the central "Sacra Conversazione," the Resurrection, and the Deposition to the dominant hand, and the remaining scenes to workshop assistants; adds to the master's oeuvre a Saint Nicholas panel in the Saint Nicholas Chapel, Soest, noting that the same style of underdrawing appears in the Soest picture and in the Berswordt and Bielefeld Altarpieces.
Hans Georg Gmelin et al. Neustädter Marienkirche, Bielefeld. Munich, 1997, p. 10.
Götz J. Pfeiffer. "Das Marienretabel aus der Bielefelder Kirche St. Marien: Ein Hauptwerk des Berswordt-Meisters." Der Bielefelder Marienaltar: Das Retabel in der Neustädter Marienkirche. Ed. Alfred Menzel. Bielefeld, 2001, pp. 33–40, 84, 139, 147–48, colorpl. 23, suggests that the altar's donor was Duke Wilhelm I von Berg, who died in 1408, and notes that Gobelinus Person, canon of the Marienkirche from 1411, mentions Wilhelm in a poem published in his "Cosmidromius . . ."  as a good father and patron of the church, who ennobled it with the decorations he gave to it; adds that the Bielefeld church was the burial place of Wilhelm's ancestors, and that Wilhelm and his wife, Anna von Pfalz-Bayern, were particularly devoted to the Virgin and are documented as having donated other works of art in her honor; considers it more likely that the altar wings were sold rather than given to Krüger in 1840 and that the church used the payment to finance its reconstruction as an evangelical congregation, a process which had begun in 1837.
Heinrich Rüthing. "Das Bielefelder Kollegiatstift St. Marien um 1400." Die Bielefelder Marienaltar: Das Retabel in der Neustädter Marienkirche. Ed. Alfred Menzel. Bielefeld, 2001, pp. 16–20, is inclined to believe Hermann Crusing (d. shortly after 1397), a native of Bielefeld and auditor in the service of the Papal court, commissioned the Bielefeld altarpiece; notes that a document of February 1400 associates him with an altar devoted to the Holy Cross and Saint Jerome, and that another document of November 1400 apparently mentions the same altar as devoted to the life of the Virgin, Saints Jerome, Ursula, and the Holy Cross [see Ref. Kornfeld 1933]; adds that no other benefactors are mentioned between the years 1389 and 1443.
Alfred Menzel. "Der Bielefelder Marienaltar: Beobachtungen zu seiner Theologie." Der Bielefelder Marienaltar: Das Retabel in der Neustädter Marienkirche. Ed. Alfred Menzel. Bielefeld, 2001, p. 28.
Mary Sprinson de Jesús inMetropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 59 (Fall 2001), p. 21.
Brigitte Corley. "Zum Berswordt-Meister." Kunstchronik 54 (May 2001), p. 243, dates the Berswordt triptych about 1431, comparing the strong geometric diagonals of its composition to the hesitant design of the Bielefeld Altarpiece, and noting that the underdrawing of the Berswordt panels shows a more practiced hand.
Andrea Zupancic inDer Berswordt-Meister und die Dortmunder Malerei um 1400: Stadtkultur im Spätmittelalter. Ed. Andrea Zupancic and Thomas Schilp. Bielefeld, 2002, pp. 165, 192, 213–15, ill. p. 193 (color), notes that dendrochronological tests by Peter Klein indicate an earliest date of creation for the Bielefeld Altarpiece of 1391 and dates the Berswordt Altarpiece probably fifteen years earlier than the Bielefeld ensemble; repeats in detail the differing views of Rüthing and Pfeiffer (Refs. 2001) about possible donors, but appears to support Pfeiffer's choice of Wilhelm I, duke of Berg.
Kristina Bitzan inSammlerlust: Europäische Kunst aus fünf Jahrhunderten. Gemälde, Zeichnungen und Kunsthandwerk aus einer westfälischen Privatsammlung. Ed. Monika Bachtler. Exh. cat.Munich, 2003, p. 16 n.3, sees the Master of the Berswordt Altarpiece as more strongly influenced by the south Netherlandish sculptor, painter, and miniaturist André Beauneveu, than by Conrad von Soest or Master Bertram.
Brigitte Corley. "Re-inventing the Berswordt Master." Kunstchronik 57 (January 2004), pp. 36–38, 41, 43–44, questions the scholarly credibility of Refs. Pfeiffer 2001 and Zupancic 2002; notes that the Bielefeld panels vary considerably in style and quality and considers it most important that they be examined individually, addressing issues of workshop organization and division of hands; rejects Zupancic's dating of the Berswordt triptych before the Bielefeld Altarpiece; considers plausible Rüthing's (Ref. 2001) suggestion that the Bielefeld Altarpiece was a corporate foundation by the collegiate chapter, endowed at their own expense and therefore without legal documentation.
Götz J. Pfeiffer. "'Etwas vom Löwen . . ., der Blut geleckt': Carl Wilhelm August Krüger (1797–1868) und seine Sammlung." Mitteilungen des Mindener Geschichtsvereins 77 (2005), pp. 128–32.
Uwe Gast. "'Im Niemandsland': Alte Thesen und neue Ideen zu den stilistischen Voraussetzungen der Malereien des Retabels in St. Jacobi zu Göttingen." Das Hochaltarretabel der St. Jacobi-Kirche in Göttingen. Ed. Bernd Carqué and Hedwig Röckelein. Göttingen, 2005, pp. 438, 440, notes that the conception of space in the Bielefeld panels is much shallower than that of the 1402 altarpiece in the Church of St. James, Göttingen, and there are hardly any compositional similarities in these works, but sees some similar facial types, for example the large heads with broad cheekbones that narrow to a pointed chin.
Brigitte Corley. "Die Werkstatt des Meisters des Göttinger Jacobi-Altars und die westfälische Malerei." Das Hochaltarretabel der St. Jacobi-Kirche in Göttingen. Ed. Bernd Carqué and Hedwig Röckelein. Göttingen, 2005, pp. 451–52, 467, fig. 7 (color; reconstruction of left interior wing), calls the Bielefeld Altarpiece a collaborative production involving the Master and several workshop assistants, like the 1402 altarpiece in the church of Saint James, which she attributes to three separate hands; notes that despite significant stylistic and technical differences, both altarpieces are dependent on the works of Master Bertram and Conrad von Soest and share the colored shadows of Master Conrad; notes that in the case of the Bielefeld Altarpiece, these shadows appear only in the autograph panels of the Master.
Iris Grötecke inGotik. Ed. Bruno Klein. Munich, 2007, p. 433.
Götz J. Pfeiffer. Die Malerei am Niederrhein und in Westfalen um 1400: Der Meister des Berswordt-Retabels und der Stilwandel der Zeit. Petersberg, Germany, 2009, pp. 11–12, 14, 17–19, 22–23, 26–28, 37–38, 60–61, 245–47, figs. 4 and 28, colorpls. 20, 30, and ill. (color) in reconstruction inside back cover of book.
Joshua Waterman inGerman Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1350–1600. New Haven, 2013, pp. 193–97, 312–13, no. 46B, ill. (color) and fig. 161 (color, altarpiece reconstruction).
The Crucifixion and The Flagellation (2001.216.2) were among eighteen scenes that made up the interior wings of an altarpiece that was intact in the Neustädter Marienkirche, Bielefeld, until the church was restored about 1840. According to nineteenth-century sources, the original frame bore the date of 1400. The central panel, a Glorification of the Virgin flanked by twelve scenes, is still in the Bielefeld church. The eighteen scenes from the wings along with the twelve scenes of the main panel formed a sequence of the fall of man and the life of the Virgin and of Christ, concluding with the Last Judgment. They were arranged in three registers reading across the width of the open altarpiece from left to right, the altarpiece measuring altogether about 182 x 550 cm. The individual scenes were originally separated by stucco borders which were removed in restoration. The subject of the exterior wings is not known.
Of the other scenes from the wings, God Warning Adam and Eve, Adoration of the Magi, Flight into Egypt, and Betryal of Christ are in the R. A. Oetker Museum, Bielefeld; the Presentation in the Temple is in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin; Christ before Pilate is in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; and Carrying of the Cross is in a private collection, London.
Tracings of all but three of the scenes from the wings are preserved at the Westfälisches Denkmalamt, Münster.
The Master of the Berswordt Altar is named after the altarpiece with scenes of the Passion in the Marienkirche, Dortmund, which bears the arms of the von Berswordt family on the frame.
Artist: Hans Baldung (called Hans Baldung Grien) (German, Schwäbisch Gmünd (?) 1484/85–1545 Strasbourg (Strassburg))Date: ca. 1511Medium: Oil, gold, and white metal on spruceAccession: 1983.451On view in:Gallery 643