Transformations of Central European and Italian Models in the Work of the Master of the Litoměřice Altarpiece
|Citation||KYZOUROVÁ, Ivana. Transformations of Central European and Italian Models in the Work of the Master of the Litoměřice Altarpiece. Acta Musei Nationalis Pragae – Historia litterarum. Prague: National Museum, 2007, 52(1-4), 45–53. ISSN 0036-5351. Also available from: https://publikace.nm.cz/en/periodicals/acta-musei-nationalis-pragae-historia-litterarum/52-1-4/transformations-of-central-european-and-italian-models-in-the-work-of-the-master-of-the-litomerice-altarpiece|
The so-called Master of the Litoměřice Altarpiece was the most important painter of the Jagiello Period. He has been recognised as such since the 19th century, but a generally accepted opinion about his person and work is still lacking, partly due to his anonymity, partly due to the character of his paintings. His sources, degree of compilation and originality are hard to fathom. The older literature did not identify the infl uence of print models on his work. Similarly, his original, playful way of using those models still awaits publication. Instead of adopting a print model as a whole, he skillfully selected individual motifs, or just physiognomic and fi gural types, and worked them into his altar paintings so that they are diffi cult to recognise. His masterpiece, the Litoměřice Altarpiece, gives us several examples of motives coming from northern masters of print, such as Master ES, Master I.A.M. de Zwolle, Martin Schongauer and Israhel van Meckenem, all of whom to the pre- Albrecht Dürer school. On the other hand, there are some motifs reminiscent of Dürer’s work. Those facts make the present author suspect that our artist may have belonged to the circle around Albrecht Dürer and that the Litoměřice Altarpiece may be of a provenance prior to 1500, perhaps from the 1490’s. Also, comparing St. John’s Gospel (18:3 and 18:22), Schongauer’s etching, and a painting called Christ before Caiphas of the above mentioned Altarpiece, the present author recognized that the said painting showed Christ before Annas, not Caiphas. Comparing the above Altar with Italian sources, the author recognized the similarity between a shepherd with a raised arm in the Nativity of the Altarpiece and one in a painting by Piero della Francesca (around 1482). Another related problem is the interpretation and datation of murals in St. Wenceslas Chapel in the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. Their similarity to the wall paintings of the Piccolomini Library at the Siena Cathedral may be signifi cant. That Library was to be a celebration of the life of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (1405–1464), a prominent Italian humanist, later pope Pius II. As papal ambassador, he visited Bohemia and wrote a Latin Chronica Bohemorum; he was respected by Czech humanists and, according to Bohuslav Hasištejnský of Lobkovic, he was the „last real pope.“ It is conceivable that the decoration of the Library in Siena, honoring the tradition of a great humanist and a pope with a direct relation to Bohemia, may have inspired the decoration of the St. Wenceslas Chapel, long dated to 1509. Recently however, that date was changed to second or even third decade of the 16th century. The present author prefers the year 1509 for several reasons: King Vladislav Jagiello was in Prague in 1509–1510 in connection with the coronation of his son, Ludvik. In addition, there is a 1509 record of a construction of a scaffold in that chapel. There are several similarities between wall paintings in that chapel and paintigs the Litoměřice Altarpiece, probably from the last decade of the 15th century), the Strahov Altarpiece from 1505–1510, and a votive panel of Jan of Vartemberk dated before 1508. Finally, some motifs from the St. Wenceslas Chapel can be found in the decoration of the Smíšek Chapel in the Church of St. Barbara in Kutná Hora from before 1492. For the reasons above, it seems likely that the St. Wenceslas mural paintings should be dated around the year 1510.