The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence; (reverse) Giving Drink to the Thirsty

Master of the Acts of Mercy Austrian

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 537

This panel was orginally part of an altarpiece to which two panels in the Städtisches Museum at Trier—Beheading of John the Baptist (with Harboring the Pilgrim on the reverse), and The Feast of Herod (with Feeding the Hungry on the reverse)—also belonged. When the altarpiece was closed, the Acts of Mercy could be seen while the opened altarpiece showed the gold-ground paintings with scenes from the life of John the Baptist and Saint Lawrence. Since the Acts of Mercy depicted in the art of this period commonly numbered six, three panels are probably missing from the wings of the altarpiece, one with the Baptism of Christ, and two other scenes from the life of Saint Lawrence. There is no indication of the contents of the central panel. An altarpiece by the same hand is in the Nonnberg at Salzburg, where this panel may also have been painted.

The aggressive realism and formal simplicity found here are characteristic of works made in Salzburg in the second half of the fifteenth century. Hatch marks to indicate shadows on Lawrence's grill suggest that the artist was familiar with the techniques of engraving and woodcutting, newly discovered art forms which probably originated in the Upper Rhine region.

The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence; (reverse) Giving Drink to the Thirsty, Master of the Acts of Mercy (Austrian, Salzburg, ca. 1465), Oil on fir, (obverse) gold ground

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