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The Dormition of the Virgin; (reverse) Christ Carrying the Cross

Hans Schäufelein (German, Nuremberg ca. 1480–ca. 1540 Nördlingen)

Artist:
and Attributed to the Master of Engerda (German, active ca. 1510–20)
Date:
ca. 1510
Medium:
Oil on wood
Dimensions:
55 x 53 1/8 in. (139.7 x 134.9 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace, Karen and Mo Zukerman, Kowitz Family Foundation, Anonymous, and Hester Diamond Gifts, 2011
Accession Number:
2011.485ab
  • Gallery Label

    Front label:

    This large, double-sided panel is one of four that formed the wings of a folding triptych (see metmuseum.org/collections for a reconstruction). When open, the altarpiece showed episodes from the Life of the Virgin Mary—here her death, or dormition. Dürer’s influence is evident in the humanity conveyed in the individualized heads of the apostles and their concentrated mood of quiet sorrow.

    Schäufelein was among Dürer's most gifted pupils and the one whose style most consistently showed the influence of the great German master. Between 1509 and 1515, he also served in the Augsburg workshop of Hans Holbein the Elder.

    Reverse label:

    When closed, the monumental triptych to which this panel belonged showed scenes from the Passion of Christ. They were painted by an artist known as the Master of Engerda and were based on designs by Hans Holbein the Elder. Hans Schäufelein intervened at a late stage in the painting process, adding a tormenter at the upper right and altering the position of the rope-puller to achieve a more dynamic, active expression. The scene’s dramatic mood is heightened by the emotionally shattered Christ, who looks out of the painting rather than down at the ground.

  • Catalogue Entry

    This double-sided panel by one of Albrecht Dürer’s most gifted pupils, Hans Schäufelein, once formed the lower half of the right wing of a monumental triptych that was probably made for the Church of the Holy Cross in Augsburg (Metzger 2002). The triptych to which this panel belonged represented scenes from the Passion of Christ on the exterior and from the Life of the Virgin on the interior when open. The other remaining paintings from the wings are today in the Hamburger Kunsthalle, the Stuttgart Staatsgalerie, and the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead, England. The centerpiece perhaps showed sculptures of the Virgin and Child with saints, and is no longer extant.

    The primary side of the MMA panel represents the Dormition of the Virgin as recounted in the thirteenth-century Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine. The Virgin is depicted just prior to her death, in her bedroom, where she is surrounded by the Apostles. Some of them carry objects pertaining to the rites associated with death and burial: a book of the gospels, a candle, a censer, a container of holy water, a staff with a cross, and the palm the apostles will carry before the Virgin and with which miracles will be performed as a sign to the people of Jerusalem. The Virgin crosses her arms over her heart in a prayerful attitude and in acceptance of her imminent death. The reverse of the panel, attributed to an anonymous artist known as the Master of Engerda, with Schäufelein contributing the figures of Christ and the two henchmen at the right, represents Christ Carrying the Cross. At the center of the composition, Jesus stumbles under the weight of his cross and is assisted by Simon of Cyrene, followed by the Virgin and Saint John. Three tormenters drag Christ onward, with a rope encircling his waist, and beat him; another carries over his head a ladder to mount the cross. The panel's neo-Gothic frame dates from the period during which the painting was owned by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, the great English architect, theorist, and a key figure in the Gothic Revival in England.

    Schäufelein produced the altarpiece when he was assisting Hans Holbein the Elder in his workshop in Augsburg. The compositions were inspired by Holbein’s paintings, which survive in drawings after them (Roberts 2010). However, Schäufelein’s compositions depart from Holbein's designs in newly creative and dynamic ways that show the influence of Dürer's innovative woodcut compositions, especially his print series of the Passion of Christ and Life of the Virgin. In the Dormition of the Virgin Schäufelein moved the Virgin closer to the center in a pose of peaceful submission, filling the foreground plane with apostles thoughtfully considering her imminent death—reading the gospels, holding a candle for the Virgin, and fervently praying to her. In the Christ Carrying the Cross—in this case, jointly by Schäufelein and the so-called Master of Engerda—Schäufelein has added a tormenter at the upper right and has altered the position of the rope-puller to achieve a more dynamic, active expression of the drama. This mood is additionally heightened by the emotionally shattered Christ, who looks out of the painting rather than down at the ground. The series of paintings to which this panel belongs is pivotal in Schäufelein's oeuvre, as it provides evidence of his time in Holbein's workshop as well as demonstrates his translation of Holbein's late-Gothic idiom into a modern expression influenced by Dürer's example. This moment places these paintings around 1510. A preliminary examination of the two paintings with infrared reflectography shows an extraordinarily detailed underdrawing (see Images) similar in style and execution to Schäufelein's underdrawings in other contemporary paintings (for example, the Visitation in the Prince of Liechtenstein Collection; see "Schäufelein as Painter and Graphic Artist in The Visitation," Metropolitan Museum Journal 22 [1987], pp. 135–40) and to his drawings on paper.

    [2011; adapted from Ainsworth in forthcoming Ainsworth and Waterman 2012]

  • Provenance

    ?art market, Munich (about 1838); Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, London (given to Hardman); John T. Hardman, Birmingham or Cheltenham; Pugin's son-in-law, John Hardman Powell, Birmingham or Cheltenham (until d. 1895; his estate, 1895–1969; on loan to Saint Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham, 1927–69); by descent to H. G. Rowland, Birmingham or Cheltenham (until 1970; his sale, Christie's, London, June 26, 1970, no. 52, for 10,000 gns. to Holstein); [Xavier Scheidwimmer, Munich, from 1970]; Georg Schäfer, Schweinfurt; private collection, Germany (1978–2011; sale, Sotheby's, London, July 6, 2011, no. 36, to Naumann); [Otto Naumann, New York, 2011; sold to MMA]

  • Exhibition History

    Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. "Hans Holbein d. Ä.: Die Graue Passion in ihrer Zeit," November 27, 2010–March 20, 2011, no. 124.

  • References

    Peter Strieder. "Hans Holbein der Ältere zwischen Spätgotik und Renaissance zu den neuen Publikationen über den Künstler." Pantheon 19 (January–February 1961), pp. 99–100, fig. 5 (reverse).

    Edeltraud Rettich in Alte Meister. Stuttgart, 1992, pp. 383, 386.

    John Oliver Hand. German Paintings of the Fifteenth through Seventeenth Centuries. Washington, 1993, p. 164 n. 13.

    Peter Strieder. Tafelmalerei in Nürnberg, 1350–1550. Königstein, 1993, p. 146, as in a private collection, Bonn.

    Barbara Butts in The Dictionary of Art. 28, New York, 1996, p. 58, as in a private collection, Bad Godesberg.

    Christof Metzger. Hans Schäufelin als Maler. Berlin, 2002, pp. 43–44, 73, 76–77, 106, 108–11, 278–90, 516–17, nos. 17d (obverse), 17h (reverse), figs. 196 (obverse), 200 (reverse).

    Daniela Roberts in Hans Holbein d. Ä.: Die Graue Passion in ihrer Zeit. Exh. cat., Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. Stuttgart, 2010, p. 306, under nos. 68–70.

    Daniela Roberts and Elsbeth Wiemann in Hans Holbein d. Ä.: Die Graue Passion in ihrer Zeit. Exh. cat., Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. Stuttgart, 2010, pp. 376–87, no. 124, ill. (color, obverse and reverse).

    Elsbeth Wiemann in Hans Holbein d. Ä.: Die Graue Passion in ihrer Zeit. Exh. cat., Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. Stuttgart, 2010, p. 263, under no. 52.



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