Balthasar of the Three Kings from an Adoration Group


On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 20

These three kings (52.83.1–.3), along with a seated Virgin and Child, formed the central shrine of a large altarpiece flanked by wings illustrating scenes from the life of the Virgin painted by Hans Schüchlin (act. Ulm 1469–1505). One of the wings is dated 1489 and bears the name of the donor, Margarethe, daughter of Margrave Karl I of Baden and Katharina of Austria, a sister of Emperor Frederick III. Margarethe was the abbess of Lichtenthal from 1477 until her death in 1496. Represented on the outer sides of the wings are the Annunciation and the Visitation, and on the inner sides, the Birth of the Virgin and the Death of the Virgin. The elegant attenuated figures with balletic stances and the broad drapery patterns suggest a sculptor trained in Ulm and were probably executed somewhat earlier than the painted wings.
From the dimensions of the wings, we know that the central shrine was over seven feet high and over nine feet wide. Such dimensions would allow for the ancillary figures and the architectural tracery that surmounted the scene. The altarpiece was dismantled in the
eighteenth century; the Virgin and Child are still in the convent for which the altar was made, and the two painted wings are in the Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe. The other figures are now lost.

Balthasar of the Three Kings from an Adoration Group, Poplar, paint and gilt, German

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