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"Isenheim Altarpiece (first view)", Oil by Matthias Grünewald (1470-1528, Germany)

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Northern Renaissance Matthias Grünewald , Oil Matthias Grünewald
'Isenheim Altarpiece (first view)', Oil by Matthias Grünewald (1470-1528, Germany)
Northern Renaissance Matthias Grünewald , Oil Matthias Grünewald

Matthias Grünewald - Oil

The Isenheim Altarpiece is an altarpiece painted by the German artist Matthias Grünewald in 1506-1515. It is on display at the Unterlinden Museum at Colmar, Alsace, now in France. By far his greatest, as well as his largest work, it was painted for the Monastery of St. Anthony in Isenheim near Colmar, which specialized in hospital work. The Antonine monks of the monastery were noted for their treatment of sufferers of skin disease, such as ergotism, symptoms of which are displayed by figures including the crucified Christ in the altarpiece. The altarpiece has two sets of wings, displaying three configurations. The first view shows a Crucifixion scene, flanked by images of Saint Anthony and Saint Sebastian. There is a predella with a Lamentation of Christ, which remains in the second view also. When the outermost wings are opened, the second view shows scenes of the Annunciation, the original subject of Mary bathing Jesus to the accompaniment of an Angelic choir (or various other titles), and the Resurrection. The innermost view shows the Temptation of Saint Anthony and the Meeting of Saint Anthony and the Hermit Paul to the sides, and a pre-existing carved gilt-wood altarpiece by Nicolas Hagenau of about 1490. Now the altarpiece has been dis-assembled (and sawn through) so that all the views can be seen separately, except that the original sculpted altarpiece is no longer flanked by the panels of the third view, which are instead shown together. Carved wood elements at the top and bottom of the composition were lost in the French Revolution, when the whole painting survived nearly being destroyed. The iconography of the altarpiece has several unusual elements, several derived from closely following the accounts left by Saint Bridget of Sweden of her mystical visions. These had long had a significant influence on art, especially on depictions of the Nativity of Christ, a scene not included here. The crucifixion includes Saint John the Baptist, long dead by Gospel chronology.



 
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Matthias Grünewald or "Mathis" (as first name), "Gothart" or "Neithardt" (as surname), (c. 1470 – August 31, 1528), was an important German Renaissance painter of religious works, who ignored Renaissance classicism to continue the expressive and intense style of late medieval Central European art into the 16th century.

Only ten paintings—several consisting of many panels—and thirty-five drawings survive, all religious, although many others were lost at sea in the Baltic on their way to Sweden as war booty. His reputation was obscured until the late nineteenth century, and many of his paintings were attributed to Albrecht Dürer, who is now seen as his stylistic antithesis. His largest and most famous work is the Isenheim Altarpiece in Colmar, Alsace.

 

Life

The details of his life are unusually unclear for a painter of his significance at this date, despite the fact that his commissions show that he had reasonable recognition in his own lifetime. His real name remains uncertain, but was definitely not Grünewald; this was a mistake by the 17th-century writer, Joachim von Sandrart, who confused him with another artist. He is documented as "Master Mathis" or "Mathis the Painter" (Mathis der Maler), and as using as surname both Gothart and Neithardt - this last may have been his surname, or more likely that of his wife. He was probably born in Würzburg in the 1470s. It is possible he was a pupil of Hans Holbein the Elder. From about 1500 he seems to have lived at Seligenstadt, when not working elsewhere.

His first dated painting is probably in Munich, dated 1503 on a much later note which apparently records an older inscription. From about 1510 to 1525 he served in the Rhineland as court painter, architect—or at least supervisor of building works—and hydraulic engineer to two successive Prince-Archbishops of Mainz, Uriel von Gemmingen and Albert of Brandenburg (whose face he used for a St Erasmus in Munich). He left this post possibly because of sympathies either with the Peasants' War, in which Seligenstadt was particularly caught up, or Lutheranism (he had some Lutheran pamphlets and papers at his death). Grünewald died in Halle, probably in 1528, or perhaps 1531.

 
The Crucifixion, central panel of the Isenheim Altarpiece.

Works

Only religious works are included in his small surviving corpus, the most famous being the Isenheim Altarpiece, completed 1515, now in the Musée d'Unterlinden, Colmar. Its nine images on twelve panels contain scenes of the Annunciation, Mary bathing Christ, Crucifixion, Entombment of Christ, Resurrection, Temptation of St. Anthony and saints. As was common in the preceding century, there are different views, depending on the arrangement of the wings; but the three views available here are exceptional. The third view discloses a carved and gilded wood altarpiece in the centre. As well as being by far his greatest surviving work, the altarpiece contains most of his surviving painting by area, being 2.65 metres high and over 5 metres wide at its fullest extent.

His other works are in Germany, except for a small Crucifixion in Washington and another in Basel, Switzerland. He was asked in about 1510 to paint four saints in grisaille for the outside of the wings of Dürer's Heller Altarpiece in Frankfurt. Dürer's work was destroyed by fire and only survives in copies, but fortunately the wings have survived, two of them are displayed in Frankfurt am Main, Städel and two in Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe. There are also the late Tauberbischofsheim altarpiece in the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, and the Establishment of the Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome (1517-1519), Freiburg, Augustinermuseum. A large panel of Saint Erasmus and Saint Maurice in Munich probably dates from 1521-24, and was apparently part of a larger altarpiece project, the rest of which has not survived. Other works are in Munich, Karlsruhe, and Rhineland churches. Altogether four somber and awe-filled Crucifixions survive. The visionary character of his work, with its expressive colour and line, is in stark contrast to Albrecht Dürer's works. His paintings are known for their dramatic forms, vivid colors, and depiction of light.

[Biography - Matthias Grünewald - 6Ko]
Matthias Grünewald (de son vrai nom probablement Mathis Gothart Nithart), né probablement à Wurtzbourg, en Bavière, v. 1475-1480 et mort à Halle, en Saxe-Anhalt, en 1528, était un peintre et ingénieur hydraulique allemand de la Renaissance, contemporain d'Albrecht Dürer. Biographie Identité Retable d'Issenheim, L'incarnation du fils de Dieu (« Conc...
[Biography - Matthias Grünewald - 5Ko]

 

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"Isenheim Altarpiece (first view)", Oil by Matthias Grünewald (1470-1528, Germany)
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The Isenheim Altarpiece is an altarpiece painted by the German artist Matthias Grünewald in 1506-1515. It is on display at the Unterlinden Museum at Colmar, Alsace, now in France. By far his greatest, as well as his largest work, it was painted for the Monastery of St. Anthony in Isenheim near Colmar, which specialized in hospital work. The Antonine monks of the monastery were noted for their treatment of sufferers of skin disease, such as ergotism, symptoms of which are displayed by figures including the crucified Christ in the altarpiece. The altarpiece has two sets of wings, displaying three configurations. The first view shows a Crucifixion scene, flanked by images of Saint Anthony and Saint Sebastian. There is a predella with a Lamentation of Christ, which remains in the second view also. When the outermost wings are opened, the second view shows scenes of the Annunciation, the original subject of Mary bathing Jesus to the accompaniment of an Angelic choir (or various other titles), and the Resurrection. The innermost view shows the Temptation of Saint Anthony and the Meeting of Saint Anthony and the Hermit Paul to the sides, and a pre-existing carved gilt-wood altarpiece by Nicolas Hagenau of about 1490. Now the altarpiece has been dis-assembled (and sawn through) so that all the views can be seen separately, except that the original sculpted altarpiece is no longer flanked by the panels of the third view, which are instead shown together. Carved wood elements at the top and bottom of the composition were lost in the French Revolution, when the whole painting survived nearly being destroyed. The iconography of the altarpiece has several unusual elements, several derived from closely following the accounts left by Saint Bridget of Sweden of her mystical visions. These had long had a significant influence on art, especially on depictions of the Nativity of Christ, a scene not included here. The crucifixion includes Saint John the Baptist, long dead by Gospel chronology.
Matthias Grünewald
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