THE earliest painting in Germany, as everywhere north of the Alps, consisted of miniature illumination of manuscripts and wall paintings. Panel paintings began with the thirteenth century and consisted at first exclusively of altarpieces. The earliest of these works, and all the Primitives up to and including the works of the fifteenth century, are exposed in Galleries 24, 23, and 20, in the lower floor of the Museum.
The oldest easel painting in Germany is the triptychon altarpiece which came from the Wiesenkirche of Soest in Westphalia (1216A), representing Christ before Caiaphas, the Crucifixion, and the Maries at the Grave. Although originated under Byzantine influence, the drawing and composition surpass that of any work done in Italy at the time. The childish naiveté of the early German miniatures has already been quite overcome, and there is a decided feeling for space composing, such as the Florentine school did not develop until a century and a half later. The work must date from between 1200 and 1230, and shows how from the beginning the racial Teutonic characteristic of individualism becomes apparent. Especially is the scene of the women at the grave impressive. They approach slowly, with measured steps, and regard, without the excessive expression of astonishment which an Italian would have found necessary, the appearance of the angel with outstretched wings, holding a sceptre and pointing to the empty grave. Here these women are German types; in Italian works they are conventional females, by no means Italian. This is all the more observable since the composition of these scenes is of Byzantine origin, and was also copied by later Italians, notably by Duccio in the Duomo painting in Siena.
Another Westphalian painter, fifty years later, produced a triptychon (1216B) with the Trinity in the centre, the Madonna on one side, and St. John the Evangelist on the other. The figures are not as fine and delicate as in the earlier work, but surpass this in strength of form, and in the large, rich folds of the draperies and mantles that cover the figures. The Trinity contains one of the earliest individual personifications of the God-father, in fact this entire presentation of the Trinity was still followed by Dürer and Titian, with whom the Father holds a presentation of the Son on the Cross before Him and is overshadowed by the Dove.
A small panel of strong Gothic appearance, which must originally have been a door to a reliquary, comes from a painter of the lower Rhine, and dates from the beginning of the fourteenth century. It shows how in the Middle Ages the religious subject was sometimes burlesqued by the emphasis of details. In a three-seated throne, which has much the appearance of an architectural cozy-corner, is Mary seated in a most doleful pose, wrapped in a magnificent brocade dress, which is, however, plainly designed to indicate her approaching maternity. In the other corner sits Joseph, dressed like a king, but in the form of an emaciated old man with a long white beard, and holding a crutch. From Joseph’s emphatic gesture and the demure bearing of Mary it seems that the conversation concerns the Immaculate Conception, and that Joseph is incredulous of Mary’s story.
All these early works are in Room 24, on the lower floor, and in Room 23 we find those that date from the beginning of the fifteenth century. We note that none of the paintings we have considered are signed, neither have most of those in this room a signature. The artists at that time, especially in Germany, were extremely modest and did not obtrude their identity by signing their name, so that almost a score of unknowns go by the name of Meister of the Life of Mary, Meister of the Holy Family, and so on, names given according to the principal works that have been identified and classified as belonging to certain men.
An interesting work is from the brush of Meister Berthold, who is known to have been the leading master in Nuremberg, and to have died in 1430, whose last name only recently has been discovered to be Landauer. We have here two altarwings by Landauer, the front parts sawed from the back, making four panels. ” Mary and the Child ” (1208) and ” St. Peter Martyr ” (1209. Plate XIII) were the outside figures, the inside showing ” St. Elizabeth of Thuringia ” (1207) and ” John the Baptist ” (1210). The characteristic of the Nuremberg school at that time was more prosaic in feeling, but at the same time more thorough and observant in modelling, with stronger colour, than the Westphalian manner. The figures of the women are slender, the well-formed heads gently inclined, the shoulders slope down, and the beginnings of a very realistic presentation of the human form are seen. The strong characterful head of Peter Martyr points to the desire for individualization. The hands, although not completely modelled, are, nevertheless, strong and indicating the joints, especially with the men. The folds of the garments are well arranged, apparently after those in sculpture. The dark background with the golden stars in our picture are a much later addition by a restorer.
At the same time there was working in Cologne an artist who goes by the name of Meister Wilhelm. A remarkably fine little altarpiece with wings (1238) shows Mary in a rose-arbour with the saintly women. It is one of those small altarpieces that were used in the home, and were more idealistic than those intended for churches. The child on Mary’s lap bends over towards Dorothea and scatters flowers from her basket which Catharina seeks to catch. Margaretha and Barbara, who has her small tower in her hand, are watching the playful antics. On the wings are St. Elizabeth who clothes a cripple, and St. Agnes gazing in the distance. A brilliant colour, through which a weak carnation tint runs, and an expression of deep, but joyful excitement, are the prominent traits which attract us. Another small Madonna (1205A) has a gold background with many graceful ornaments, and comes from another Cologne master of the same period.
This early Cologne school, however, did not develop into a decisive realism until worked upon by the influence of the old Dutch school. Without in any way detracting from the sacredness of their subjects the early Dutch and Flemish painters introduced their figures into everyday life, delivered them from the bane of the gold ground, and surrounded them with the joyousness of all nature. The sacred personages and saints are no longer ethereal beings, but flesh and blood, real humans ; and to intensify the moral teaching of their lives they are placed in the inner rooms of fifteenth century furnishing, and even more frequently in the open, with hill and dale, forest and stream, cities and villages in the distance. This suggested to the worshippers that the lives of these biblical beings was not beyond them but could be followed and imitated. This realism extended further to the garments worn by these sacred personages, not the nondescript robes of the Italians but the costumes of the common people; and to make them look more like the neighbours whom everybody knew, an effort was made for realistic modelling, not omitting physical imperfections, even though bordering on the grotesque.
The active commercial intercourse which existed in that century between Cologne and the Netherlands by means of the Rhine, was the source of the strong impression produced upon the art of the Rhenish provinces. This is apparent in a magnificent little altarpiece, called ” Mary in the Rose-arbour ” (1235. Plate XIV. In Room 20), by the so-called Master of the Life of Mary, who was active in Cologne from 1463 until 1480. The picture has the old favourite theme of the Cologne school of a flowering arbour which we saw already in the work of Meister Wilhelm, and which is seen in Meister Stephan Lochner’s painting of the same subject in the Cologne museum. Mary, with an expression of motherly pride, holds the nude Child which stretches out its hand for the flower St. Barbara offers him. St. Catharina is deeply en-grossed in reading a Book of Hours, and St. Magdalene holds the ointment vessel on her knee as she points towards the venerable donor with his two sons. At the other corner of the foreground are the donor’s wife and her four daughters, like-wise kneeling. These two groups are all dressed in canonical costumes, while Mary and her holy women are richly arrayed. The faces are exceedingly gentle and soft, although the pursed lips do not make the features attractive, but the brilliant eyes on the other hand add much to their expression. Many characteristics point to Dirk Bouts as the inspirer of this painter of the Life of Mary. The portraits of the donors are more in the fine manner of the van Eycks, but the sky background is still golden.
The ” Annunciation ” (1199), in two parts, is most likely the work of the same master, although more related to the dry manner of Hugo van der Goes. The faces are hard and expressionless, and the garments full of crinkles, and not graceful. The background is no longer golden, but is formed by a veranda carried out along perspective lines. On a bench, which runs around the two parts, we note a red pillow and various other articles of stillife, and a gold-embroidered tapestry hangs on the wall.
The Master of the Holy Family, who appears first in 1486 and is traced up to 1520, has an altar-piece with wings (578, A. B. C.). He went a step further along the Flemish way, for instead of the gold background we find a beautiful landscape dwindling away to a clear blue distance. It is a Sacra Conversazione with many saints. The types of the faces are animated, the colours bright with a strong reddish fleshtone, and the movements are free without archaic stiffness. Only the folds of the dresses are still hard and unnatural with many unnecessary protuberances.
The Flemish influence comes out also in the Westphalian school of Soest, whence we have a winged altarpiece (1222, 1233, 1234). On the main wall in Room 20), showing the ” Crucifixion ” with many accompanying scenes : the Judas kiss, the Carrying of the Cross, the Burial of Christ, the Last Judgment. The artist is called the Schöppinger Meister, and he seems to have some archaic handicaps. The drawing is sufficient in the figures that are at rest, but where they move they are weak and stiff ; the colour is raw, the landscape insignificant, and the sky of gold. The many events preceding and following the Crucifixion are not even separated, but all form a confusing mixture. Over a hundred persons press together and crowd each other to enact the various scenes. It seems to be the object to make an impression by the multitude of excited figures rather than by quiet pathos. The artist is more restful in the scenes depicted on the wings, especially on the inside of the left one, with the early history of Christ. On the outside of the wings are shown the “Conversion of Paul ” and the ” Crucifixion of Peter.”
Four panels, the separated sides of two altar-wings (1205, 1206), from a middle Rhenish master, present ” Mary with the Child, and the Trinity.” They show how far up the Rhine the Flemish influence extended.
The Master of the Glorification of Mary was active in Cologne between 1460 and 1490. His ” Adoration of the Child ” (1235A) is one of the most beloved themes of the Flemish and German schools in the fifteenth century. In the sixteenth it is set aside for the more pompous scene of the visit of the three kings. Here we find the Child lying on the ground in a ruined hut, with Mary in adoration. In a half-circle around this group kneel Joseph, holding a candle, and a number of angels. Other angels flutter like dark-blue birds around the roof. Two shepherds are seen in a corner, too stupefied to act.
In Room 23 we find a large winged altarpiece of eight panels, with scenes from the life of Mary and the Passion of Christ (1621), by Hans Multscher (1400-1467) of Ulm. Next to Conrad Witz and Lucas Moser, Multscher must be regarded as the strongest forerunner of Schongauer. His art with its many figures aims less to arouse sentiment than to give a clear statement of facts, and he succeeded therein especially by a remark-able rendering of physiognomic expressions. The most attractive panel is the one showing the ” Birth of Christ ” (Plate XV). The crowd of peasants pressing against the fence, presents a variety of Bavarian types, in contrast with the Hebraic features of Joseph, realistically portrayed with leather gloves to protect him from the winter-cold. The figure of the Virgin is remarkably successful, but the child in the cradle very crude. Perspective and planes were not yet understood, as may be seen by the hill on which the shepherds are squatting surrounded by their diminutive sheep.
Another master of Ulm was Bernhard Strigel (1460-1528). Several altarwings are found here of this Bavarian who only within the past twenty years has been discovered. The principal one of his works here is a family group of the Imperial Councillor Johannes Cuspinian (583B), which is the work that led to the discovery of the artist’s name, who was formerly known as the Master of the Collection Hirscher. The work suffers of weak modelling, poorly drawn hands, and bad grouping, but is interesting for the individual expression of the heads and the magnificent colouring. In this respect the altarwings with religious compositions are less attractive. They show figures of saints and scenes from the life of Mary (583, 606B and C). The colour here, which has a deep red for its foundation, is exceedingly sombre. The figures are too much stretched, the faces disfigured by big noses, wide mouths and small protruding chins. They have flat feet, and the clothes flutter most inconsistently around the square, hooky figures.
These Primitives have shown us the gradual development of the art of painting in Germany from the archaic beginnings, generally along imitative lines, until by the end of the fifteenth century a few men arose who established the art with truly racial characteristics, and stamped it with manifest Teutonic expression. For the works of these men we ascend again to the second floor, and passing through Rooms 73, 72, 70 and 68, we enter Room 67, where the great masters of the German school are gathered. In the adjoining cabinets 65 and 66 we find a few works which chronologically belong with those in Room 67, and which we shall consider in their proper place, since the rooms are sufficiently close together to allow of a combined survey.
We begin with a small altarpiece that has been acquired within the last ten years. It is an exceedingly rare work of Martin Schongauer (1455-1491), who had most influence upon German art by his 113 etchings, but who has also left a few easel paintings. Schongauer was born in Colmar, and is supposed to have been a pupil of Rogier van der Weyden, to whom, however, he merely owes his colouring. His conception is entirely personal, and his composition often very cleverly designed. The ” Birth of Christ ” (1629. Plate XVI) may remind us in some respects of Flemish work, it possesses, nevertheless, strong characteristics. For instance, the heroic figure of Joseph places him in a position of importance, which he scarcely ever occupies in the many presentations of this subject, where he is generally considered quite a negligible quantity. Joseph’s figure is perhaps the most successful in his knightly bearing, the protector of the weak and helpless. The typical faces of the two shepherds who kneel outside the shed, and of the monk possibly the donor of the picture who bends over them, present a strong characteristic of the south German school. The Virgin also has none of that ethereal or spiritual aspect which the Italians always bestow upon her. She is a very ingenuous young girl, a perfect type of a German fraülein, with long blond ringlets hanging down her shoulders. The two wings (1629A and B), although belonging to this altarpiece, were painted by another hand after Schongauer’s etchings. This is also the case with a larger altarpiece, a Crucifixion ” (562), with saints on the side-wings.
The Ulmer master Bartholomaeus Zeitbiom (active 1484-1517) was not so strong in invention as Schongauer, but his work is very solid and substantial, even though the paint is thin and dry. His ” Sweatcloth of Veronica” (606A), the predella, of an altarpiece which is now in the Museum of Stuttgart, shows two half-length, life-size angels who hold, spread out between them, the napkin on which, according to the legend, the face of Jesus was impressed when Veronica wiped his brow on the road to Calvary. The drawing of the angels, especially of the folds of their white dresses, is very poor and stiff they seem to be duplicates reversed. But the face of the Christ is noble and impressive. His ” St. Peter ” (561A) is somewhat archaic. The saint stands before a gold-damask carpet, with book and key in his hands.
Max Schaffner (active 1500-1535) was another painter of Ulm of whom little is known. His ” Four Saints ” (1234B) are gracefully posed, and bespeak a worthy artist.
The greatest of all German artists commenced to work about the same time, with the beginning of the sixteenth century. Albrecht Dürer (1471.-1528) was a painter of masterly ingenuity, ‘ín whom the apogee of German art was reached. Yet, he was by no means a faultless painter, and there was a reason for the few weaknesses we detect in his work. The Germans in general were not such munificent art-patrons as the Italians were, nor was the demand for church decoration as extensive as it was in the south. Commissions were comparatively few, and artists found it more remunerative to execute their ideas on the wood-block or the copper-plate, and by utilizing the printing press scatter the fruits of their brain broadcast. In these wood engravings and etchings the German artists spoke the fulness of their talent; therein they revealed the secret treasures of their heart, the inventiveness of their fancy, and an artistic potency such as was rarely seen in the Italian Renaissance. But when they did paint, the habits of their engraving fastened themselves on their work in oil. They showed angularity of line, a strain of pose, a huddling of the composition and an overloading with details, an unnecessary exactness, which adds to the charm and beauty of the parts but detracts from the painting’s unity and general impression.
Dürer, the typical German master, suffers also in these respects, and the highest estimate of his genius we may form only by examining the large number of crayon drawings, woodcuts and etchings which he has produced. Therein he has revealed himself as the pathfinder in genre and landscape, as the great master of ornamentation and decoration, as the inspired poet. His painting, which consists only of religious subjects and portraiture, is uneven, but at times marvellous in its technique, its imagination, and its true German spirit. His large religious works are in the Munich and Vienna Museums, Berlin only possesses five portraits and two small Madonnas.
His ” Madonna of the Finch ” (557F) was painted in Venice in 1506, at the time Dürer painted his famous ” Rosewreath Festival.” The influence of Bellini and the other Venetians is noticeable in the sumptuous colouring, but the composition is exceedingly confused. Its decorative intent and ornamentation are excessive, and the drawing not impeccable. The Madonna is seated in a red covered high-back chair, resting one hand on a book and accepting with the other a sprig of may-flowers which the little John offers her. But strangely she does not look at the gift but gazes in a dreamy way to the other side, out of the picture. The nude child is seated on a large velvet pillow that rests on Mary’s lap, from which it is surely about to slide and drop to the floor. The finch is perched on the boy’s left arm, singing away for dear life. Two winged cupid-heads float at the sides of Mary’s head and hold a jewelled crown over her. The landscape seen behind the throne is a conventional one, and the round bunches of foliage of single trees add to the confusing con-volution of lines. All this is pointed out because it is the most characteristic thing about Dürer’s work sureness and exactitude in an orderless array of details, and weakness in the ensemble effect. While perfect in the portrayal of separate parts he failed to indicate their relative importance and value.
This failing is naturally least obtrusive in his portraiture, where the minuteness of detail, in hair, cloth, and flesh with its wrinkles and folds and delicate shadows, only adds to the general aspect of truth and lifelikeness.
Dürer’s best portrait here, and that a master-piece, is the ” Portrait of Hieronymous Holzschuher ” (557E. Plate XVII), the prominent Nuremberg Councillor, and Dürer’s great friend. One sees in this face the strong Teutonic type, a man of affairs, a firm, noble character and imposing personality. The reflection of the light from a window in the pupils of the eyes heightens their brilliancy and penetration. The minute execution of the hair, especially that hanging over the fore-head, and of the beard, and the delicate painting of the fulness and hollows in the face leave, when seen, an impression never to be forgotten.
This portrait, as well as the one of Jacob Muffel (557D), belong to the last years of the master, having been painted in 1526. The Muffel portrait is not quite as attractive at first appearance, owing to the less energetic person who sat for it. But the masterful handling of the bluish and greenish tinted shades around the eyes, the wrinkles and folds in the skin of the aged burgomaster, the deep green jacket over which the fur-lined coat is thrown, all against a light-blue background, make this portrait technically of equal excellence.
The “Woman by the Sea ” (557G) is a portrait of his wife Agnes Dürer, who accompanied her husband on his trip to Venice where this portrait was painted, as well as the one of a young girl (5571). The former is a striking piece of colour work. The large head of an ordinary looking woman, a typical hausfrau, almost fills the panel, with a background of blue sky, and a glimpse of the sea horizon just above her shoulders. Very little of the square cut-out, rich dress is seen, but a broad collaret of small, brilliant sea-shells hangs around the well-formed neck.
The second Madonna (557H) is dated 1518, and shows Mary in prayer, gazing heavenward. One half of the background is a red stone wall, the other half á green curtain which gives a raw effect to the colouring. The remaining portrait is that of Frederick the Wise of Saxony (557C). It is an early work, of 1496, and while it is technically worthy of the young master it is a repulsive looking object. The Elector himself was but thirty years old, but a very homely man. The long, straight nose runs in a sharp point half-way down over the upper lip, deep grooves run from the top of the nostrils to the corners of the mouth, a heavy frown contracts the bushy eyebrows which over-hang sharp, piercing, dark-brown eyes. The crinkly hair hangs down on the shoulders, and the huge ungainly hands are crossed, resting on the balustrade behind which the Prince is standing. And yet, there is a fascination about this homely subject by reason of its excellent painting quality.
Dürer’s pupil, Hans Schäufelein (1480-1540), followed his master very closely. He is also at his best in wood-engraving. His “Last Supper ” (560) is an excellent example of his style. It shows his grey-blue colouring, the feathery treatment of foliage, and the short proportions of his figures.
Hans Baldung Grien (1476-1552) of Strassburg, was a friend of Dürer, whom he followed in technique, while in colour he was more influenced by Mathias Grünewald, the ” German Correggio ” as he was called, of whom no example is found here. This is to be regretted since Grünewald must be ranked as next to Dürer and Holbein in German art.
Baldung’s affiliation with Dürer is seen in the “Head of a Grey-beard” (552B. Plate XVIII), which, nevertheless, shows great individuality of execution, the beard especially being a marvellous piece of painting. It is a wonderfully expressive face, full of character, keen and slightly humourous. But Baldung was notably a colourist. This is seen in his ” Crucifixion” (603) where colour dominates the whole in rich harmony. Green, whence Baldung got his appellation, is the keynote. It shimmers in the mantle of Mary Magdalene who embraces the cross, and throughout the landscape, and gives the undertone to all the many varied colours which produce an effect as if one sees sun-light pouring through a stained-glass window. The snow-capped mountains in the distance, and above them the dark cloudmasses form a strong note, while the fluttering of the loin-cloth of the Christ sounds like a pathetic cry in the hour of agony. The gathered crowd is portrayed with all the emotions which the scene called forth, sorrow, horror, astonishment, indifference these all are written on the faces of the onlookers. A winged altarpiece (603A), whereof the centre panel shows the ” Adoration of the Kings,” looks like a rich piece of tapestry. Here also the bright green is seen in the mantle of the Moor, in the large cap of the King who stands in the centre, and in the foliage of the landscape.
These last two examples of Baldung are found in Cabinet 65, but before examining the other paintings there we will enter Gallery 66 to view the work of another follower of Dürer. This is Hans von Kulmbach (1476-1522), whose master-piece, the ” Adoration of the Kings ” (596A. Plate XIX), is the principal work in this gallery. Kulmbach studied at first with Jacopo de Barbari, who resided in Germany from 1500 until 1505, before he entered Durer’s studio, and this double influence is plainly visible in all his work. In fact, Kulmbach was the first to be signally attracted by Italian methods, an inclination which later developed throughout German art, soon to cause its decay and death. The animated groups of figures in this composition are held together by architectural lines. The stately arches of the ruins of a palace, through which the blue sky and a bright, hilly landscape are seen, form the foundation of the construction, which is without stiff regularity and exceedingly well arranged. Mary holds on her lap the well-formed nude child, which runs its fingers through the gold the eldest of the kings kneeling offers in his cap. The group of the other king to whom his servant offers a golden goblet is equally important, and the kneeling Arab, and Joseph discoursing with the courtiers form a complete balance. The costumes are rich and resplendent, a mixture of Oriental and Muscovite, and the work excels any-thing of Dürer’s in the variety of the actions, and the lively play of eyes and gestures. The melting and transparent clearness of the colours, which are put on so thinly that the grain of the wood shows through in places, the fine transitions from light to dark, and the soft harmony of the whole colour scheme give this panel a jewellike appearance.
A further development of splendour in painting a characteristic not peculiarly Germanic, but the result of southern influences was seen in the rise of the school of Augsburg which rivalled the one at Nuremberg. Its principal master was Hans Burgkmair (1473-1531), who distinguished him-self by the grand sweep of his lines and the full wealth of his colour. The two altarwings, one with ” St. Ulrich ” (569), the patron-saint of Augsburg, the other with ” St. Barbara ” (572. Plate XX), are fine examples of his ripe and restful art with their distinguished form and flowing brushwork. In place of the broken curves in the dress-folds we find here a simple, noble fall of the folds, and the movement of the figures also has nothing of the halting and angular constrainedness of early German art. In the St. Barbara the excessive protuberance of the abdomen is curious as illustrating the queer fashion and the ideal of beautiful form in Burgkmair’s time, which had also been the mode a century earlier, as seen in Jan van Eyck’s Portrait of the wife of Arnolfino in the National Gallery in London. The fish in the hand of St. Ulrich refers to the legend that this holy man was once caught by a messenger from the Duke of Bavaria as he regaled himself with a luscious roast goose on Friday, a fast-day. The page took a piece to carry it to the Duke and accuse Ulrich of this profanity. But when he came to Munich and appeared at the court, the goose-bone in his hand had changed into a fish.
Burgkmair’s pupil, Jörg Breu (active 1501-1536), was less grand and impressive, more delicate and idyllic in his compositions. His ” Mary with the Child and Saints ” (597A) is a picture of decorative quality, fantastically ornamented with putti playing in the flowery sward, and floating in the air to place a monstrously large gold crown on the Madonna’s head.
Nearby hangs a recently acquired and not yet catalogued example of Martin Schaffner (1480-1541), of Ulm, consisting of four panels on which saints and ecclesiastics are portrayed. The rich Renaissance architecture shows that the Augsburg influence of Burgkmair affected strongly the Ulmer master.
This gallery is further filled with many works of Lucas Cranach the Elder, and of his contemporaries; but before discussing Cranach we musli return to Room 67 to examine the work of Albrecht Altdorfer (1480-1538), of Regensburg, a man who ranks very high in German art. He was a Romantic painter through and through, a naive, ingenious dreamer, a poet born. He was the first in German art who devoted special attention to the landscape part, and who used his figures more as garniture than as the main object in his pictures. He has been called the father of German landscape painting, and more specifically as the founder of the socalled Donau-stil. How charmingly he knows how to paint the solitude of the forest. The bright morning sun-ray breaks through the light-green of young firs and beeches and changes the dew-drops into diamonds, and into jewels the many coloured beetles that scurry through the soft moss. No one before him had ever caught the poetry of glades and glens.
Already the small diptychon, of 1507 (638), which shows to the left the stigmatization of St. Francis, and to the right St. Jerome chastising himself in the desert, speaks strongly through the wooded mountainscape in the background. The ” Birth of Christ ” (638A) was painted five years later and is a romantic portrayal of the Holy Night, placed in the ruins of a dilapidated hut. The three angels bedding the child in its crib are graceful and sympathetic, and the other angelgroup in the sky joins with childish awkwardness to sing the Gloria.
We find here also the gracious, animated ” Rest on the Flight to Egypt ” (638B. Plate XXI). Not an oasis in the desert is the tarrying place, but a lake-beach with the ruins of an old Gothic home, and in the foreground a magnificent, ornate Italian Renaissance fountain, whereof the sculptured centrepiece reaches high in the air. Faithful Joseph has been gathering cherries, after first providing a high-backed armchair for Mary. Their faces are exceedingly homely, Mary’s especially being the limit of commonplace, but the gambols of the putti around the rim of the basin are wonderfully charming. The colour is in keeping with this decorative theme which is more than decoration, even poetic idealism in its highest flight.
In the next room, 65, we find three more of his works. The ” Landscape with Satyrs ” (638A) is by far the best of these, with its fantastic mountains in the background and a satyr family camping under high trees forward. The German tendency to didactic moralizing is shown in a composition that bears the title ” Poverty sits on the train of Riches ” (638C), which has a fantastic landscape and high castle architecture. A richly gowned pair, on whose train a beggar family is seated, approaches the steps of their aristocratic home and is welcomed by the major domo with a brimming tankard. The ” Crucifixion ” (638D) is in the same general style.
The best represented German artist is Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1533) of whom seven-teen paintings are found here, three mythologies, five portraits, eight biblical stories, and the famous allegory, “Fountain of Youth ” (593). A wide basin of water, to which one descends by three stone steps, has in the centre a fountain on which stand the statues of Venus and Amour. On the left where the ground is hard, rocky and sterile a large number of women, most of these old, are carried to the basin in wagons, carts and wheel-barrows, disrobed, and plunged into the water. To the right in the water they appear as young girls, who gambol and play about and do all kinds of mischief. On that side is a large carpet spread on the lawn to which a herald invites them to be dressed in costly garments. Farther back ‘a table is loaded with good things and a banquet takes place, after which the green and shady lanes beyond beckon the rejuvenated ones to cozy walks with gallants awaiting them. This picture, which Cranach painted in his seventy-fifth year, is replete with humour and exceedingly attractive in its arrangement and colour.
By contrast we will now notice his earliest ac-credited work, the ” Rest on the Flight to Egypt ” (564A. Plate XXII), which is at the same time the most beautiful work which he has produced. It still rings serious, and his later mannerisms are not yet apparent. A strong, brilliant evening red illuminates the sky. The parents have just halted in the Frankish forest with its rocks and fir trees, and at once eight angels have rushed on to welcome the young child, to bring it water and fruit, and amuse it with music and song. They are the little wood-sprites who have come out of their hiding places. The selfconscious stare and pose of Mary and Joseph is somewhat disturbing but does not much detract from the charm of the children’s play.
Another early picture is the ” St. Anne ” (567A) which used to be ascribed to Grünewald. Here also do we find a certain imposing grandeur in the forms, even though they be stiff in the lines. The two women, Mary and Anne, are seated on a hewn block of stone, while three tiny cupids hold a large red drapery behind and over them in a somewhat inexplicable manner. A lovely landscape is seen stretching behind the curtain, and the colouring is rich but quiet.
But Cranach did not fulfil his early promises, soon he sank to the level of an artisan. He did not have the depth of Dürer, nor Holbein’s technique, and gradually he repeated himself to such an extent that he became conventional and mannered. The heads of his men became expressionless, and the women, with their big feet, thin bodies, thick hips, square heads rounded off at the corners, and oblique eyes like the Chinese, are by no means attractive on close examination. Besides he was weak in light and shade, his brushwork smooth and hot, with a hard seal-red always shining through.
Of OId Testament subjects he preferred ” Adam and Eve ” (567), because he had the chance, under biblical pretext, to paint a couple of nude figures.
The scene of ” Bathsheba’s Footbath ” (567B) is quite naive, with David playing assiduously on the harp while over the wall he watches Bathsheba’s ablutions.
His ” Burial of Christ ” (581) is one of a series of nine passion scenes painted by Cranach and by his son. Six of these are still in the royal castles, while the one here, ” Washing the Apostles’ Feet ” (579), is by the son, Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515-1586), who was a weaker man, although he changed his father’s deep red to a more pleasing rosy colour.
The elder Cranach’s mythological scenes were of great variety, sometimes amusingly absurd, at other times naive and ingenuous. The ” Apollo and Diana ” (564) is quite an original conception. Apollo with his bow and arrows in his left hand, and in his right the inevitable and ostentatious leafy branch, looks down on Diana, who is seated on the back of a fine stag lying on the ground. Diana is a charming, well-formed figure, but Apollo with a beard! looks like an ill-carved wooden block. Another group is distinctly funny. ” Venus and Amour ” (1190) meet in the woods, and Amour complains of the stings of the bees who had attacked him while stealing honey, but Venus tells him that the wounds of his arrows are still more painful. In this and in another Venus picture (594) Cranach overreached himself by painting the figures life-size, which would require greater ability to draw and richer colour, in which he signally failed.
And Cranach was besides an indefatigable portrait painter, who took commissions wherever he could. Living at the beginning of: the Reformation period he filled orders at wholesale for Luther and Melanchthon portraits. He was the only one al-lowed to paint Luther’s portrait, and he has turned out about fifty portraits of the Reformer. But this did not prevent him to keep on good terms with the other side, the princely leaders of the old faith. He painted many years for Cardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg, Luther’s staunchest opponent. We have two portraits of this ,cardinal, one as St. Jerome (589), in a pleasant sylvan retreat, surrounded by many forest animals, the other in his Cardinal-robes (559). At the same time we have here a portrait of Katharina von Bora (637), Luther’s wife, whom Cranach first introduced to the Reformer. We find further portraits of Johann Friedrich the Goodhearted (590), and of a young Patrician (618), with a black barette and small beard.
Cranach was an arduous worker, for not satisfied with pouring out the large multitude of pictures of his own invention he also copied what pleased him, and his taste in this direction is indicated by a smooth, sober copy which he made of the ” Last Judgment ” (563), of Hieronymous Bosch, the original of which is in the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.
Among the other paintings in these two cabinets, 65 and 66, we must yet notice the fine burgomaster’s portrait of Johannes von Ryht (588), by Bartholomaeus Bruyn (1493-1553), the last of the school of Cologne. This portrait shows a refreshing similarity to Dutch work, and his
Madonna with the Child ” (639), before whom a Duke of Cleves kneels as donor, has some reminiscence of van Eyck’s jewellike colouring. In his later work the artist weakened considerably by imitating Italian painting.
Christoph Amberger (1500-1561), of Augsburg, was one of the contemporaries of the younger Holbein. His portrait work gives him a high standing, only second to Dürer and Holbein. The commission which gave him his great popularity was to paint the portrait of the Emperor Charles V (556. Plate XXIII), at the age of thirty-two. Sandrart, the Vasari of German artists, tells the story that the Emperor was so well pleased with the work that he ordered the artist paid three times the stipulated price of twelve Thalers, and a golden chain to be added, saying that Titian, who charged one hundred Thalers for a portrait, could not have done better. The pale face is characterized with the Habsburg protruding lower lip and chin, but it has refined features, and there is character and will-power in the strong forehead and the steady, level eyes.
Of greater psychological interest is his portrait of the great savant Sebastian Münster (583), at the age of sixty-five. Formerly a Franciscan monk he had embraced the new faith, and was at the time Professor of Hebrew, Theology, and Mathematics in Basel. He was the first to edit a Hebrew Bible, and wrote a Cosmography, one of the first geographies which, besides describing countries and peoples, also contained exhaustive historical and genealogical dissertations. This intellectual grey-head is seen here with a black barette and a black mantle bordered with heavy white fur, which stand out sharp and clear against the green background. The presentment is animated, the handling of the brush technically perfect.
Georg Pencz (1500-1550), a pupil of Dürer, has also done his best work in portraiture, in which he happily combined the warmblooded realism of his native art with the colourful vivacity of Italian exemplars. The portraits of the painter Erhard Schwetzer of Nuremberg. (582), and that of his wife (587), excel in the strikingly simple arrangement and their lifelikeness. Especially the woman’s portrait, in conception, pose and bearing, has a truly modern appearance. The portrait of a young man (585) has none of the closeness and stiltedness of the Dürer school, but is painted with a free and flowing brush. The young man is seated behind a table covered with a cloth whereof the texture painting equals anything of the kind produced by Holbein.
Several works by unknown masters cannot be omitted. A Niederrhenish painter, called the Meister von Frankfort (active 1500-1520), has an altarpiece with wings, whereof the centre panel shows the Child seated on a bench between Mary and Anna (575), which with its pious leaning of the former century, still belongs to the German Renaissance for its free and colourful treatment.
Three panels in one frame (619A) come from the Meister von Messkirch (active 1515-1550), of the school of Upper Swabia, a pupil of Schaüfelein, whose works were formerly attributed to Bartel Beham. Also the Meister von Cappenberg (active 1525-1550), of Westphalia, is worthily shown by a panel with two subjects (1193), on the left the Annunciation, and on the right the Birth of Christ.
We have now returned to Room 67, where we still find among the Dürer paintings the works of the last great artist of the German Renaissance, Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543). While Dürer was a draughtsman foremost, and even when he painted drew with the brush, Holbein was a colourist par excellence, who built in colour as the later Florentines did. A comparison between Darer’s Holzschuher (Plate XVII) and Holbein’s masterpiece ” Portrait of Georg Gisze (586. Plate XXIV) will elucidate this.
Holbein was not successful while at home in Augsburg, nor at Basel where he tried his fortune. But in 1526 he went to London where he was welcomed by the German merchants’ guild, whose portraits he painted. One of these is before us, a young man, seated in his office, surrounded by all its paraphernalia. A magnificent Venetian glass vase with pinks stands on the table, which subtly indicates that Georg Gisze is a bridegroom. The expression of his face is earnest, quiet, not meditative, but that of a practical man of affairs. Notably the painting of the details is wonderfully exact ; the texture of the costly table-carpet, the crinkly silk sleeves, the gold, the steel, the books, have never been surpassed by the greatest stillife painters. And yet they do not in the least detract from the personality of the young merchant. They merely explain his position and occupation. It is true that one fault may be found with the work it lacks aerial perspective. The body of Gisze seems cramped between the table and the wall. But this may easily be overlooked in the magnificence of the whole, which raises it beyond portraiture to the highest expression of true art.
His other three portraits, one of an elderly man (586D), and two of young men (586B and C), are, without so many details, equally impressive for their fine modelling, the sharp and masterful handling of the expression, the grand and yet quiet sweep of the composing.
Thus we have seen the sprouting, growth and full bloom of German art, which never attracts by the wealth, opulence and grandeur of outward forms, such as the Italians of the Renaissance display, but which impresses us with the naive conception of nature, its deep religiosity, and its sincere sentiments. But the cancer of imitation, the preference of foreign art above native talent, resulted after the middle of the sixteenth century in a state of decadence, finally leaving the artfield fallow and barren for centuries to come.
We will now retrace our steps through the first rooms of this side of the building, and enter again Gallery 73 which is generally used for loan exhibitions. Recently there has been placed there the famous waxbust which has been accredited by Dr. Bode to Leonardo da Vinci, despite many pro-tests raised by English critics who desire the work to be regarded as of a little-known English sculptor of the middle of the last century. The fact that inside the bust English newspapers of that time have been discovered goes for naught, for these may have been placed there by a restorer. The general appearance of the bust, its Mona Lisa smile, its mystic beauty, speak well for Dr. Bode’s attribution.
With Cabinet 72 we enter upon the study of the Primitives of the Netherlands, both of Holland and Flanders.
( Originally Published 1912 )
The Art of The Berlin Galleries:Rooms 41, 44, 43. Venetian Paintings Of The 15th CenturyRoom 42 – Venetian And Lombard Sculpture, And Venetian PaintingsRoom 39collection James SimonRoom 45 – Florentine Paintings Of The 16th CenturyThe Spanish PaintingsThe French PaintingsThe English PaintingsThe German PaintingsThe Dutch And Flemish PaintingsThe Royal National GalleryRead More Articles About: The Art of The Berlin Galleries