Major works | Earthly & Spiritual Matters
Everything is not what it seems
Under a canopy held by two cherubs, the Virgin, wearing a light veil on her head, is carrying the Baby Jesus on her lap. The Baby is holding a basket of flowers and carnation. But if you look closer at the painting, you will notice that, under the flower, appears a pan. What’s more, scientific analyses under infrared reflectography have revealed traces of a spoon under the Baby’s basket as well as confirming the pan under the carnation.
These elements can be found on the Triptych of the Virgin with Child, attributed to the Master of Frankfurt, the whereabouts of which are unknown today but which has been studied by Friedländer. This painting is organised around a central panel identical in composition to the Musée départemental de Flandre’s painting. The comparison therefore makes it possible to attribute the work in our museum to the Master of Frankfurt’s studio.
The identity of this painter is still a mystery: he owes his name to two prestigious commissions for the city of Frankfurt am Main, The Triptych of the Family of the Virgin in the collections of the Frankfurt Historisches Museum and The Triptych of the Crucifixion, on display at the Städel Museum also in Frankfurt. Active in Antwerp from 1490 to 1520 – perhaps even until 1525 according to art historians – he oversaw a very productive studio which made some eighty works. The difficulty in determining whether a work was merely done in this studio or actually by the artist himself stems from this prolific activity.