Contributions to the study of the Melbourne Triptych. II: The miracle of the loaves and fishes, The Raising of Lazarus, The Rest on the Flight to Egypt and St Peter


This study, which follows on from that of the left wing of the Melbourne triptych, the Marriage at Cana (fig. 1a),1C. Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Contributions to the Study of the Triptych with the Miracles of Christ: The Marriage at Cana’, Art Bulletin of Victoria, no. 31, 1990, pp. 2–19. (Published in French in Annales d’histoire de l’art et d’archéologie de l’Université Libre de Bruxelles, vol. XIV, 1992, pp. 7–25.) will examine the triptych’s centre panel, the Miracle of the loaves and fishes. This panel will be discussed primarily in terms of the characteristics of its underdrawing, the attribution of the painting to the Master of the Legend of St Catherine having been generally accepted since its proposal by M. J. Friedländer.2M. J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. IV, Hugo van der Goes, rev. edn, trans. Heinz Norden, Leyden, 1969, p. 59. 

In the second part of the study, the attributions of the Raising of Lazarus (fig. 1a), the St Peter (fig. 1b) on the reverse of this panel, and the Rest on the Flight to Egypt (fig. 1b) on the reverse of the Marriage at Cana, will be discussed and re-examined in the light of unpublished comparisons with other works by minor masters working in Brussels in the last quarter of the fifteenth century. 

The centre panel: The miracle of the loaves and fishes (fig. 1a) 

The overall style of this panel, as we wrote in 1990, shows all the characteristics that Friedländer has identified as peculiar to the Master of the Legend of St Catherine. Put briefly, they are as follows: a close dependence upon the work of Rogier van der Weyden (this is illustrated here in the figure of the young woman in the left foreground, who may have been copied from the Mary Magdalene in the Lamentation of Christ at the Mauritshuis, The Hague); stiff expressions; and a typical morphology where the faces are triangular in shape, the features heavy and often caricatural, and, most notably, where the eyes are almond-shaped and the ears oversized and positioned too high on the head. These characteristics are all quite specific to the manner of the Master of St Catherine. In addition, the little white terrier and the greyhound are ornaments that are privileged in his compositions: they also appear in the picture formerly in the van der Elst collection that was taken as Friedländer’s point of reference, and in the Last Supper at the Bruges Seminary. 

Other details in the Melbourne panel, a narrative composition built around a combination of images in which refinement of expression and a sense of the anecdotal both play an important part, are specific to the work itself. These features, which lend themselves to yet further comparisons, include the following: figures that have their source in the Rogerian vocabulary but which here appear in poses that are somewhat stiff and affected in their striving for elegance; careful attention to the rendering of textures, notably in the brocade doublet of the courtier at the right, which has been executed with small, tight, relief brushstrokes; and a taste for decorative details, as illustrated by the flowers and animals, and for anecdotal scenes, such as those showing children with particularly natural gestures. We should further note the careful handling of the plants; the obvious interest in the landscape, which is vast and luminous; and the way in which rhythm is given to the groupings and the scene’s axes of construction are emphasised by means of a very skilful distribution of the colours of the garments. 

The radiographic image of the panel (fig. 2a) reveals the effects of sustained treatment (this is characteristic of the Master and is found in all his works (fig. 2b)), as well as modelling that is rich in lead white, notably in the faces and the drapery. We also observe the use of a graphic means – a fine, continuous, white impasto – for outlining the contours of the headdresses and for picking out the edges of the folds. 

The examination of the underdrawing with infrared reflectography has until now received relatively little attention. In the Corpus Melbourne, U. Hoff and M. Davies describe the underdrawing as follows: ‘The preliminary drawing … consists of outlines with numerous corrections, as seen, to a lesser degree, in [the altarpiece of The Virgin and Child with SS Barbara and Catherine at the Capilla Real, Granada]’.3U. Hoff & M. Davies, The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Les Primitifs flamands, I: Corpus de la peinture des anciens Pays-Bas méridionaux au quinzième siècle, vol. 12, Brussels, 1971, p. 20. 

A study of the Flemish paintings in the Capilla Real is now in progress at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, and as a result we now have an opportunity to compare the underdrawing in the Melbourne triptych with that in the Granada panels. We will return briefly to this comparison after we have given a detailed account of the characteristics of the underdrawing of the Miracle of the loaves and fishes

The drawing used to set down the forms in this panel is composed of broad strokes, made with a brush. Rapid in its execution, it has been used to locate only the principal elements, namely the volumes of the figures; the lineaments of their faces, particularly the eyes and browridges, noses and mouths; and, lastly, the folds in the headdresses and drapery. 

This preliminary drawing, as Hoff and Davies have pointed out, has indeed been subjected to a large number of modifications. In the group at the right, for example, the face of the woman seated second in the row in the infrared detail seen here was not presented at all frontally in the first instance, but instead was turned towards the left: the initial sketching of the nose, the eyes, the mouth and the curve of the chin of this figure is clearly visible in the infrared documents (fig. 3). The change in orientation of the woman’s head has naturally led to significant corrections in the drawing of her headdress. The way in which her companion holds his head has also been altered; this is attested to by the initial position of his eyes, which in the underdrawing are designated by circles and painted lower down, and of his turban, which formerly covered more of his cheek. 

 

Similar modifications may be observed in several other figures of the assembly – principally in the faces and headdresses of two of the women in the grouping at the right, and in the figure of the bearded man to the left of the woman with the high wimple (fig. 3). The positioning of some of the feet and knees has also been modified, in order to make the highly artificial poses of the figures more convincing. 

Compositional changes with implications for the narrative have similarly been introduced by the artist between the preliminary drawing and the execution of the painting. The most spectacular of these occurs in the figure of St Peter, who originally held out his right arm in order to receive a loaf of bread from the little boy standing before him, while in his left hand – which has also been repositioned – he held the handle of the basket (fig. 4). Here the Master must have modified his vision in the course of execution, doubtless out of a desire to more effectively focus attention on the principal actor in the narrative by leaving space between him and the rows of courtiers at either side. It is amusing to see that when the composition took its final, painted form there was no correction made to the gesture of the child, who now offers a loaf in each hand. 

The underdrawing of the gown of the woman seated in the left foreground of the composition is rich in indications as to the placement of its folds (fig. 5a); however, these guidelines have not always been followed in the painting. Indeed, several of the lines from the drawing have been abandoned, others have been altered in form, and even an entire tail of cloth, which was originally spread out on the ground, has not been carried through to the painting. The handling of the underdrawing is characterised by its spareness: the lines are straight and intersect at right angles, and small horizontal return strokes occur at some of the line ends. 

The fact that this drawing is flat, has not been reworked, and is linear in appearance gives the impression that the artist was working  from a prototype, undoubtedly from the workshop of van der Weyden, and that at this stage he was not concerned with volumes. There is no draft hatching to prefigure areas of shading, although the painted drapery is extremely plastic – its light/shade contrasts are strongly accentuated by the thickness of the whites in the light areas, the intensity of which is heightened by the blackness of the folds, indicated by dark brushstrokes (fig. 5b). 

Even if there are borrowings here, there is no servitude. The artist has retranscribed the model in his own way during the pictural stage. 

The other gowns in the composition also reveal a careful – albeit more schematic – placement of the folds, with a firm stroke having been used to define the principal axes. 

In the middle ground, in the scenes on a smaller scale, the pentimenti and alterations to the composition are just as frequent. We find, for example, that the figure holding a basket at the upper left, on a level with the figure of the Virgin, was fully drawn in before the Master began painting the last figure in the row of dignitaries. Thus, the folds of the saint’s robe may be seen clearly outlined under the face of the woman who has been identified as Michelle of France.4ibid., p. 17, no. 7, pl. II. In addition, we find that the small seated male figure to the right of the Virgin originally held out his left hand. 

The painter has also made a large number of corrections to the landscape during the pictural stage, modifying, for example, the configuration and placement of the grassy hummocks. With regard to the fortified town, he has chosen to make a rapid sketch of its masses in the preliminary drawing, and has specified its forms and details only during the pictural process. 

An exhaustive description of all of this panel’s pentimenti, abandonings and changes in composition would be a tedious undertaking, and so we shall end our summary here in order to move on to comparisons between the underdrawing in the Miracle of the loaves and fishes and that in the altarpiece at Granada and in the one at Cologne. 

The underdrawing of the drapery of the St Barbara figure in the centre panel of the Granada triptych (fig. 6) has been held to be related, as Hoff and Davies have noted, to the preliminary drawing for the seated woman in the foreground of the Melbourne panel. In the Granada altarpiece we find an identical system of folds: precisely positioned, they intersect in an angular manner, are presented flatly and without indication of volume, and end in a small horizontal stroke, sometimes extended in the opposing direction. However, the impression that the folds have been geometrically constructed – some even look as though they were drawn with a rule – is further accentuated here. 

We note, moreover, in the faces, the architecture and the figure of the Child in this triptych, a liberal use of pouncing, which is non-existent in the Melbourne altarpiece. And finally, in the Granada composition as a whole there is little reworking, which factor entirely distinguishes its underdrawing from that of the centre panel at Melbourne. 

All these observations show that the Melbourne–Granada comparison is not as convincing as the authors of the Corpus thought. Whereas in the first case we are in the presence of an original and creative work, in the second we may be looking at a work executed by the Master of the Legend of St Catherine from a prototype in circulation at the time. Another possibility is that the Granada altarpiece is a replica by the Master of one of his own works, or even a workshop copy after one of his paintings; this hypothesis is supported by the existence of another version of the altarpiece. This latter work, formerly on loan to the Mauritshuis at The Hague and now in a private collection, is also attributed to the Master of the Legend of St Catherine5See R. van Schoute, La Chapelle Royale de Grenade, Les Primitifs flamands, I: Corpus de la peinture des anciens Pays-Bas méridionaux au quinzième siècle, vol. 6, Brussels, 1963, pp. 116–18, pl. CXC. This triptych was on loan to the Mauritshuis until 1984. It was sold at Christie’s, London, in 1990 (for a reproduction, see Christies, London, Old Master Pictures (sale cat.), 9 April 1990, lot 31, p. 51); its present whereabouts are unknown. and is generally considered a replica; however, it could well be the prototype. Indeed, by comparison with the Granada altarpiece the composition of its three panels is much more skilful, the gestures of its figures are more natural and their faces more individualised, and the technique used in executing the brocades is less mechanical. More-over, in the right-hand wing, which has not been preserved at Granada, the portrait of the donor and the face of St Ildefonso have been handled with great care. 

These comparisons, however, are to be the focus of another publication.6C. Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Genèse de l’oeuvre et dessin sous-jacent dans les peintures du Maître de la Légende de sainte Catherine’, in Actes du Colloque X pour l’etude du dessin sous-jacent dans la peinture: Le Dessin sous-jacent dans le processus de création, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-La-Neuve, 1995 [forthcoming]. We will not continue this discussion here, but in our conclusions we will briefly look at the comparative examination of the underdrawing of the Melbourne triptych and that of the two panels painted by the Master of St Catherine in the Altarpiece of Job at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne (the study of the underdrawing of the Cologne panels is now in progress).7 We examined this underdrawing, using infrared reflectography, in a day of study at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in 1988. Since that time, Mr Till-Holger Borchert has undertaken a study of the Altarpiece of Job under the direction of Prof. Molly Faries. We would like to express our gratitude to him for having provided us with photocopies of the relevant reflectogram montages, as well as with a copy of the reports prepared at the time the works were examined. N.B. In the interests of conciseness, we will make use of the following abbreviated titles: Cologne altarpiece (for the Altarpiece of Job at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum) and Brussels–Bruges panel (for the Legend of St Barbara panel at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, and the Musée du Saint-Sang, Bruges). 

The examination of the centre panel of the Melbourne altarpiece using infrared reflectography has enabled us to characterise the individual handling of the underdrawing more accurately, by revealing the artists assured, and very free, treatment. It has also shown the importance that he accorded the preliminary drawing in this type of narrative composition, the genesis of which took place in several stages. The drawing has been subjected to constant modifications, even in the secondary scenes and in the most seemingly insignificant details,8We find the same approach in the drawing used to set down the forms in the Visitation and Scenes from the life of St Peter wings of the Cologne altarpiece. In that work, however, the underdrawing is used to indicate the modelling of the drapery; the handling of the drawn lines is energetic; and hatching and a wide variety of graphic marks are used to indicate the positioning of the shaded areas (see also note 7 above). the essential thing being the impact of the story told by the image. The same approach is found in the works of the Master of the Legend of St Barbara. 

To close the study of this panel, we would like to turn to the male figure seated second from the front on the left (figs 7a & 7b). Ought we not recognise a self-portrait of the artist in this figure, which has never engaged the attention of art historians (whereas several identifications have been proposed for the other individuals)? His mode of dress, which is very sober, distinguishes him from his companions; the bonnet and the fur-lined robe, or tabbaert, are in other pictures worn by members of the bourgeoisie, and especially by painters. Furthermore, among so many stereotyped faces, his seems to be more individualised. Although his features correspond to a typical schema – this is common in portraits painted at the end of the fifteenth century – the man seems to command attention by the determined expression of his mouth and the greater intensity of his gaze. 

We find it interesting to formulate this hypothesis in the context of the execution of the Melbourne altarpiece as a whole. The Master of the Legend of St Catherine, honoured by the commission, wanted to represent himself among the dignitaries of the court. He has painted himself with his feet set firmly on the ground and his arms crossed – a more conventional attitude than the slightly mannered poses of the aristocratic assembly around him. In addition, he has depicted himself beside a young woman derived from a model borrowed for this context from a painting from the workshop of Rogier van der Weyden. Awkwardly integrated into the grouping, this woman assumes the appearance of a heraldic figure, and gives the impression of having been added as an ostentatious touch to the initial conception of the composition.9The radiographic image shows that this figure has not been superimposed on a pre-existing figure. The volumes of her gown, which occupies an important part of the foreground, have, on the other hand, been adapted to the surrounding space: as we have seen, a tail of cloth in the drawing has been omitted from the painting – obviously so as to leave room for the legs of the figure we believe to represent the painter. Nevertheless, there is a striking contrast between the well-spaced distribution of the six principal figures on the right and the abnormally tight distribution of the seven figures in the group at the left. Turned in an artificial manner towards the viewer, the woman seems isolated from the group and leaves little room for the figure beside her, which must have been subjected to a distortion of the planes between the bust and the lower part of the body. Finally, we may ask ourselves whether it might not be the case that at the time of executing the painting the artist decided to add his own portrait to a model-figure – this seems all the more possible when we consider that a careful examination of the underdrawing reveals another male face, presented in profile and slightly receding in relation to the alignment of the figures. We can clearly see the contour of his headdress, as well as the eye, the nose, the chin and the mouth, under the present right cheek of the figure we believe to be the painter. Only new laboratory examinations, with more precision in their definition (infrared reflectography and radiography of the whole surface of the composition), will be able to confirm this latter hypothesis. In making this inclusion, might not the Master of the Legend of St Catherine have wanted to affirm the continuity of the renowned van der Weyden workshop, which he had inherited,10The Master of the Legend of St Catherine is thought to be the son of Rogier van der Weyden and the probable heir to his workshop. by demonstrating his abilities – for the figure is executed with brio – and to underscore by his own presence in the painting his function as artist-contractor, with overall responsibility for the altarpiece whose execution he shared with four of his collaborators? 

We have already had occasion, in an article published in 1991, to point out the frequent recourse by the Brussels masters, and later by the Antwerp Mannerists, to the use of different kinds of portraits in their paintings – the ‘hidden-in-a-group’ self-portrait or portrait of a court figure being a sort of wink at the viewer, who might discover it at the heart of a religious composition.11C. Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Le “Retable du Martyre des saints Crépin et Crépinien” et le Maître de la Légende de sainte Barbe’, Bulletin des Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Miscellenea Henri Pauwels, nos 1–3, 1989–91, p. 171, n. 22. Since the publication of our article, we have found new examples of this practice in the Last Supper triptych at the Bruges Seminary. In this triptych, we believe we can see portraits both in the first male figure seated at the left of the table in the wing showing The Jewish Passover, and in the man wearing a turban to the left of St John in the Last Supper. This same figure appears again in the grouping on the right in the centre panel at Melbourne, where he has been identified as John IV of Brabant.12See Hoff & Davies, p. 18, no. 12, pl. II. In each of the two panels at Bruges is another male figure (wearing a black beret and dressed in a tabbaert) that might also be a portrait. 

The presence of these portraits may be explained by the personality of the commissioner(s), who must have expressed the desire to see themselves depicted, or to have a dignitary from their entourage represented. This custom, which, in view of the extant examples seems to have been commonplace within the court, denotes a tight link between the latter and the Brussels workshops – in particular those of the Master of the Legend of St Catherine and the Master of the Legend of St Barbara; through this practice, these artists carried on the tradition of van der Weyden, the pre-eminent painter of the aristocratic portrait. 

On the other hand, the painter conscious of the importance of the task entrusted to him would integrate his own portrait into the composition as well. 

The Banquet of Job panel in the Cologne altarpiece, a work painted within the same artistic milieu as the Melbourne triptych, also includes a series of portraits. Of these, the face of the third guest seated at the left-hand side of the table (fig. 8a) could be a self-portrait of the Master of the Legend of St Barbara, since the same face appears again in the Legend of St Géry panel at the Mauritshuis, The Hague (fig. 8b) – another painting attributed to that Master. 

The Raising of Lazarus (fig. 1a) 

The attribution of this wing has long been debated. We would therefore like to present the stylistic and technical arguments that we believe authorise us to recognise in this painting the hand of the Master of the Legend of St Barbara, an artist who was active in Brussels in the years 1470–1500, and who collaborated with the Master of the Legend of St Catherine in the execution of the Cologne altarpiece

Rather than spend more time here on the study of the Lazarus as a whole (for which we refer the reader to the Corpus Melbourne),13ibid., pp. 7, 8, 14, 19, 21. or on the history of its attributions, which is taken up in our 1991 article ‘Le Retable du Martyre des saints Crépin et Crépinien et le Maître de la Légende de sainte Barbe’,14Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Le “Retable du Martyre des saints Crépin et Crépinien”’, p. 157. we will examine the similarities that link this wing to the three principal works by the Master of the Legend of St Barbara that are now recognised by art historians as autograph. These are: the Legend of St Barbara panel (Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, and Musée du Saint-Sang, Bruges), the painting used as the basis for the initial identification of the Master; the scenes from the life of Job in the Cologne altarpiece; and the Altarpiece of SS Crispin and Crispinian (Muzeum Narodowe, Warsaw, and Musée Communal, Brussels). 

Let us begin our discussion by recalling that Hoff and Davies accept neither Friedländer’s attribution of the Raising of Lazarus to the Master of the Embroidered Foliage (the authors regard the figures and landscape as being too different from comparable elements in the acknowledged works of that Master – an opinion shared by N. Reynaud and J. Foucart), nor the thesis which holds that the front surface of the panel and the St Peter on the reverse (fig. 9c) are attributable to the same hand. Hoff and Davies recognise the style of the Master of the Embroidered Foliage in the leaves and plants, but not in the figure of St Peter; they do accept, however, the analogies that Reynaud and Foucart have pointed out between the face and hands of the St Peter figure in the Lazarus (fig. 9a) and the same features in the figure on the reverse of the Cologne altarpiece (fig. 9b), which has been given to the Master of the Legend of St Barbara. The authors go on to point out differences in the handling of the underdrawing in two compositions on the Melbourne panel, but nevertheless do not propose an attribution for either.15Hoff & Davies, p. 21. 

In our view, there is no major stylistic connection between the Raising of Lazarus and the works of the Master of the Embroidered Foliage, but there is a common vocabulary in certain details. The half-timbered mill situated at the left of the landscape, for example, is very similar to one that occurs in the Master’s painting of the Virgin and Child in the John G. Johnson Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. However, the reuse of such a motif, particularly in the context of a collaborative work, cannot be considered in isolation as a criterion of attribution. The mill has probably been taken, as we suggested in 1991, from a book of models,16Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Le “Retable du Martyre des saints Crépin et Crépinien”’, p. 171. A careful comparison of the mill in the Melbourne wing and that in the painting at Philadelphia reveals small differences in the details of the two structures, and modifications in their proportions. These variations exclude the possibility of a mechanical repetition of the motif, which instead simply denotes a common source of inspiration. which would have been one of the necessary tools of trade in the workshop of the Master of the Legend of St Catherine (who, as we have seen, carried on the tradition of Rogier van der Weyden). On the other hand, all the stylistic and technical comparisons that we have been able to make with the acknowledged paintings of the Master of the Legend of St Barbara (listed above) support an attribution to the latter. 

Let us examine, then, the stylistic and technical aspects of the Lazarus in detail. The composition is well balanced. The group that surrounds Christ constitutes an intermediate volume between the principal scene, constructed on a triangle, and the vast landscape, which gives depth to the background. The highly coloured secondary scene showing Christ with Mary, Martha and the Apostles, which takes place between the mill and the rocky spur surmounted by a castle, has been well integrated with its surroundings and completes the narrative. The same skilful approach to composition is found in the three comparative works. However, the articulation of the groups within the pictorial space in the Lazarus most particularly resembles that in the Decollation wing (Musée Communal, Brussels) of the Altarpiece of SS Crispin and Crispinian, and in the portion of landscape occupying the upper right-hand section of the centre panel at Warsaw. The man pinching his nose in the Melbourne work serves to provide one of those vertical axes that punctuate all of the Master’s compositions; dressed in a brocade garment, he plays a clearly decorative role in the narrative. 

The morphology of the face of Christ in the Lazarus, with its fine features, full lower lip and expressive eyes, together with the neat beard and dishevelled hair, occurs again in the face of Job in the Cologne altarpiece (fig. 11a). We also recognise in both works a similar action of the hands, which are identical in form. 

In terms of its gentle modelling, the face of Mary in the (fig. 10b) recalls that of St Barbara in the Brussels–Bruges panel (fig. 10a), while its deformation evokes that of the seated figure at the end of the table in the Banquet of the Cologne altarpiece. The slightly awkward profile is a recurrent element in the works of the Master of the Legend of St Barbara. We observe it again, for example, in the executioner of SS Crispin and Crispinian, and in the Lazarus itself in the man in the striped tunic, whose stiff and theatrical appearance echoes the executioner’s silhouette. 

When we come to Lazarus himself, we find that his anatomy and the morphology of his hands and perizonium, like the structure of his face and its expression of fervour, have analogies in the figures of SS Crispin and Crispinian (fig. 11b). We also note that the face of the man who unties the hands of the resuscitated Lazarus evokes the faces of the judges in the Warsaw panel and, lastly, that the features of Martha – and the way in which she holds her head – recall the Mary Magdalene on the reverse of the Cologne altarpiece

The landscape in the Lazarus, as in the Altarpiece of SS Crispin and Crispinian, is very carefully executed, elaborate in detail, and subtle in its blueish highlights. It also includes figures that are quite small in scale, as occur in the three comparative works by the Master. The tall-stemmed and gramineous plants, depicted with such a concern for realism that the species may readily be identified, have their source in a vocabulary that is common to all the works of the Master and is also, to a certain extent, characteristic of the Brussels workshops. Several species are exact repetitions, as J. Bialostocki has already pointed out,17J. Bialostocki, Les Musées de Pologne (Gdansk, Krakow, Warszawa), Les Primitifs flamands, I: Corpus de la peinture des anciens Pays-Bas méridionaux au quinzième siècle, vol. 9, Brussels, 1966, pp. 5–6. of those in the centre panel at Warsaw. 

We do not feel it necessary to give further examples of stylistic connections between the Lazarus and accepted works by the Master of the Legend of St Barbara. Those that have been noted here are sufficient, it seems to us, to support an attribution to this Master. 

The technique in the Lazarus is also particular to the Master. In order to focus only on its principal characteristics, let us start with the faces, which are carefully and tightly executed and are given form, as in the Brussels–Bruges panel, by means of delicate glazes in grey-pink tonalities; the lips are translucent and a white dot is used to emphasise the expressive character of the eye (fig. 9a). We also note the light and supple handling in the treatment of the hair, the beards and the furs, and the very fine rendering of textures; this is particularly true of the brocade, where the areas of flat colour in the motifs have been modulated with a green tone or filled with small yellow dots, set close together and sharply executed. Furthermore, as in the acknowledged works of the Master, the colours of the clothes retain their depth even though their background tones are more mixed with white; the impastos in the highlights are in slight relief, even in the white drapery of Lazarus; and a fluidity in the passages from shadow to light is achieved in forms that nevertheless retain a great deal of plasticity. 

The treatment of the architecture and of the plants in the foreground is rigorous, and varied in its effects. The leaves of the bushes are structured by pale impasto touches, which are arranged like the arcs of a circle; these delineate the contours in a dynamic fashion, and reveal a handling that is less systematic than that of the Master of the Embroidered Foliage. In terms of the architectural elements, particular attention is given to such decorative details as the rows of stones, the bays, roofs etc. … In addition, delicate lines of white highlighting have been used to represent the movement of the water, and the configuration of the rocks in the right foreground has been specified with particular sharpness. 

The Raising of Lazarus, by contrast with the three comparative works, seems to have been painted entirely by the Master of the Legend of St Barbara. The handling of the background and the landscape, though more rapid than that of the foreground, is still careful and very detailed. Only the faces of the secondary figures are heavy and schematic in their modelling, but this laxity may be explained by their function of ‘filling out’ the grouping. The chromatic range extends to some lively and varied tones in the clothing – pinks, yellows, vermilions … – and to soft and slightly pastel colours in the landscape. 

The radiographic image of the Lazarus is difficult to read because it is disrupted by elements from the scene that appears on the reverse of the panel.18For an illustration of this radiograph, see Hoff & Davies, pl. XLIII. The limited use of white in the flesh-tones is nevertheless discernible, and we see that the highlights in the faces of Christ, St Peter and Lazarus have been built up with small impastoed graphic marks. The radiograph also reveals the assurance of the artist’s strokes in the folds of the drapery and the drawing of the white headdresses, and their modulation in the thick areas of pigment. A white imprimatura, applied with a broad brush and also found in the acknowledged works of the Master, is perceptible throughout the composition. We also note the use of reserved outlines, for the arms and hands of the figures and elsewhere, and of reserved lines for details of the clothing, such as the folds of Martha’s headdress. This practice denotes a concern on the part of the master for rigour in the pictorial construction, as well as a clear vision of the effects he seeks – and that he attains with a manifest economy of means. 

The information contained in the infrared photograph (fig. 12) attests to this same concern with perfection in the preparation of the modelling. Long hatchings, which have been put down with a brush and are parallel, close together and consist of uniform lines, mark the areas of shading in the garments. These long hatchings occur again in the flesh-tones, for which the modelling has also been prepared, while in some places we find short bands of oblique hatching (indicating, for example, the shading of Lazarus’s arm). This underdrawing, perpendicular to that used to set down the forms, has been executed with suppleness and ease. In addition, the planes of shading in the shoulder, neck and armpit of Lazarus are well delimited, and the strong accents in the painting are prefigured by overlaid systems of hatching. The same attention to the underdrawing is found in the Cologne altarpiece, in particular in the red robe of the figure with his back to the viewer in the Banquet panel; however, the almost scrupulous care given to the lines of hatching in the Raising of Lazarus is not seen to the same degree in the Cologne panel. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that the handling of the underdrawing as a whole in the Lazarus is related to that in the autonomous drawing (fig. 13) made preparatory to the Brussels–Bruges panel.19For an illustration of this drawing, see R. Guislain-Witterman, ‘L’Oeuvre du Maître de la Légende de sainte Barbe’, Bulletin de l’lnstitut royal du Patrimoine artistique, vol. XVII, 1978–79, p. 100. One may suppose that in his first works, which still adhered closely to tradition, the Master prepared the underdrawing for his modelling to a greater extent – so as to be able to envisage at this early stage the effects sought in a painting; one may equally surmise that in his later paintings, which are more narrative in character, he was satisfied with adumbrating only the main areas of shading. 

The preliminary drawing also reveals the existence of several pentimenti, for example in the positioning of the crossed hands of Martha and in the belt of the soldier. In addition, haloes drawn around the heads of Christ, St Peter and Mary have not been carried through to the painting. Modifications have also been made to details in the landscape: a church steeple and a cottage have been abandoned, while the distribution of the trees on the rock in the right background has been altered. Furthermore, the figure of God the Father in the sky was originally drawn frontally, as in the centre panel, but was later painted in profile, in an attitude identical to that seen in the Banquet of the Cologne altarpiece

In conclusion, all of our new observational data, which is based on comparisons with the three works taken as our points of reference, leads us to see the Raising of Lazarus as an autograph painting by the Master of the Legend of St Barbara – a work that has been executed entirely by his own hand and is of a fine quality. This attribution is contrary to the assertion of Friedländer, who identifies in this wing the hand of an anonymous master whom he describes as ‘ambitious but not very strong’.20Friedländer, vol. IV, p. 59. 

St Peter (fig. 1b) 

It remains to us now to tackle the delicate problem of the attribution of the reverse of this panel, which shows St Peter. In the absence of sufficient proof – and this despite extensive research – we shall content ourselves with formulating some working hypotheses. 

It is difficult to be precise about this work, attributed by Friedländer to the Master of the Embroidered Foliage21ibid., vol. XII, Jan van Scorel and Pieter Coeck van Aelst, 1975, p. 14. The author had previously attributed this wing to the same artist as had painted the Raising of Lazarus (Friedländer, vol. IV, p. 59). and by Reynaud and Foucart to the Master of the Legend of St Barbara.22N. Reynaud & J. Foucart, ‘Exposition Primitifs flamands anonymes’, Revue de l’Art, no. 8, 1970, p. 68. Certainly the style of the trees and plants, and the technique used in their execution, are characteristic of the manner of the Master of the Embroidered Foliage. Irises, ferns, violets and daisies, which although stylised are extraordinary in their descriptive realism, have come straight from his formal vocabulary.23We would like to thank Mme Celia Fisher for having communicated to us her unpublished paper ‘Flowers and Gardens in Flemish Painting of the 15th Century’. Mme Fisher points to the analogies between the vocabulary of plants and flowers used by the Bruges painters, among them Hans Memlinc, and that used by the Master of the Embroidered Foliage. Stylised ferns, in particular, are found in the works of both masters, the difference residing in the manner – ‘stereotyped’ or ‘naturalistic’ – in which they are treated. These observations are further evidence of the stylistic relationships, already pointed out by several art historians, between the School of Brussels and that of Bruges – relationships that most often developed by way of Rogier van der Weyden and the painters of his circle, or the minor masters of the turn of the fifteenth century. The drapery, on the other hand, as Hoff and Davies have pointed out, is much heavier than is usual in the style of the Master and is characterised by a superfluity of poorly structured folds. The face (fig. 9c) is compared by the same authors24Hoff & Davies, p. 21. (following Reynaud and Foucart)25Reynaud & Foucart, p. 68. with that of the St Peter on the reverse of the Cologne altarpiece (fig. 9b), a grisaille attributed to the Master of the Legend of St Barbara; it seems to us, however, to be more closely related – in terms of its morphology and execution – to the face of the saint in the Raising of Lazarus (fig. 9a). This comparison also holds true for the hair, the beard and the volumes of the neck, although the technique used for the modelling is even more refined in the present wing than on the front surface of the panel. Moreover, as Hoff and Davies have pointed out, the underdrawing of the robe (fig. 14) is purely linear. Its faint and very indecisive line in no way resembles the careful and assured drawing – rich in lines that prefigure areas of modelling – that is characteristic of the Master of the Legend of St Barbara. 

These few observations raise several questions. Could we be looking at a work that has been executed as a collaboration between more than one artist? Could the landscape and its decorative elements, which are of a very fine quality and constitute the greater part of the composition, have been executed by the Master of the Embroidered Foliage, who was accustomed to collaborating with the Brussels painters in the workshop of the Master of the Legend of St Catherine, or in that of the Master of the Legend of St Barbara (for whom he undoubtedly painted the landscapes and flowers in the Altarpiece of SS Crispin and Crispinian)?26See Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Le “Retable du Martyre des saints Crépin et Crépinien”’, p. 172. Could another collaborator have drawn and painted the monumental figure of the saint, whose drapery has no equivalent in the production of the Master of the Legend of St Barbara, and whose clumsy underdrawing does not correspond to the more structured drawing of the Master of the Embroidered Foliage?27There are not many infrared photographs of works by this master available, and so we are basing our arguments on examinations of the Virgin and Child at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille, and the Virgin and Child crowned by two angels at the Groeninge Museum, Bruges. Could this collaborator have taken as his model the face of St Peter on the front of the panel, or was the execution of the face set aside for the Master of the Legend of St Barbara, who in view of his limited involvement would have taken particular care with the work? The latter hypothesis, which seems the more plausible – one may look, for the sake of comparison, at the coarseness in the rendering of the hands, which are imitations of those painted by the Master himself – shows once again how complicated the distribution of labour could be within a work produced by a single workshop. 

We may ask ourselves whether this collaborator might not once again be ‘Master B’ (as he has been designated by R. Guislain-Witterman), who worked in a style that was very close to that of the Master of the Legend of St Barbara but whose technique was more schematic.28Guislain-Witterman, p. 100. The similarities that the modelling of the hands of St Peter shares with that of the figures painted by this Master are obvious, and the same is true of the disproportion of the feet in relation to the figure, and the awkwardness in the treatment of the plastic volumes of the drapery. We believe we can also discern this Master’s hand in the more narrative scenes at either side in the Banquet of the Cologne altarpiece, as well as in some of the minor figures in the Altarpiece of SS Crispin and Crispinian. Might it be possible to identify him as the Master of the Embroidered Foliage, who specialised in the representation of plants and vegetation but who would occasionally paint less important sections of compositions? The character of the underdrawing in the St Peter prevents us from subscribing to this appealing hypothesis – at least given the present state of our knowledge of the distribution of labour at this stage in the genesis of a work.29Within the framework of research into the distribution of labour in the Brussels workshops, it would be interesting to focus on the relationship between the authors of the underdrawing and the authors of the final painted composition. Did they necessarily have to be one and the same person in the case of a collaborative work? Could some masters have prepared the compositions and others have finished them? These are the kinds of questions we need to consider when examining the many new infrared documents made available over the last few years. 

The Rest on the Flight to Egypt (fig. 1b) 

The Rest on the Flight to Egypt on the reverse of the Marriage at Cana is the work of a fifth Brussels artist and the last composition we will be looking at. It seems to us that the traditional attribution of this work to the Master of the Magdalene Legend, an attribution accepted by Hoff and Davies,30Hoff & Davies, p. 20. should be retained, since the Virgin has characteristics in common with figures in the work that has been used as the basis for identifying the hand of this Master. However, the comparison seems most convincing when applied to the Virgin and Child at the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, an accepted work by the Master.31For discussion of the Master of the Magdalene Legend’s Virgin and Child, see Gemäldegalerie Berlin – Gesamtverzeichnis der Gemälde, Berlin, 1986, no. 376 (inv. no. 552A). We are extremely grateful to the Curator of the Department of Old Master Paintings, Mr R. Grosshans, for having obtained for us a photograph of the panel as a whole, as well as a photograph of the work seen under infrared light, in order to help us to compare it with the left wing of the Melbourne altarpiece. The affinities between the two paintings are numerous and conclusive. In both we find the same type of face, with elongated eyes and globular eyelids masking the pupil; with long nose, wide brow and pointed chin; and with the same kind of thread-like hair, executed in impasto with a broad brush (figs 15 & 16a). Other analogous features are the alert appearance of the Child, with his amused expression, the way in which the hands have been drawn, and the style of the drapery, with its deep and ample folds. We also observe in both works the same use of a dark outline to emphasise the contours of the forms, and in particular to delineate the flesh-tones of the Virgin and Child. 

However, the format and manner of presentation, which are different in the two works, make a more thorough comparison difficult. This is particularly the case because in the Melbourne wing the landscape occupies a very important place in the composition, which has been inspired (in terms of the angels on the date palm, the dragon tree, and the motif of St Joseph and the ass) by a Martin Schongauer engraving dating from around 1470.32See Le Beau Martin: Gravures et dessins de Martin Schongauer (vers 1450–1491) (exh. cat.), Musée d’Unterlinden, Colmar, 1991, pp. 264–5. 

An examination of this work using infrared reflectography reveals a rapid sketching of the forms and volumes (figs 16b & 16c), as well as some pentimenti in the placement of the landscape elements – such as a slight shift towards the left in the case of the church tower. The underdrawing of the folds of the drapery starts off as lines that are spare and angular in form, and of the type executed by the Master of the Legend of St Catherine – which seems to us, in a more general sense, to be specific to the Brussels School. It occurs in particular in the work of several of the artists from the Master’s workshop.33The underdrawing of the gown of the angel, and of that of the Virgin, in the Annunciation altarpiece at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique – a work attributed to the Master of the Magdalene Legend – presents the same type of drawing: it is very spare and has been used solely for the placement of the folds. In this particular example, the drawing has been followed faithfully in the painting, the right-angled line ends being an indication of the area occupied in the painting by the angles of the folds. The handling of this drawing is hesitant in places, while the lines of some of the folds have been reworked – there is enough treatment of this kind as to perhaps betray the use of a model from a pattern book. In other areas we find bands of short hatchings that follow the direction of the folds or indicate their creases, and also emphasise some of the areas of shading; this denotes a desire, which is non-existent in the panel by the Master of the Legend of St Catherine, to be explicit about the volumes in the light areas. 

There is no element in the composition that allows for a precise dating. We may nevertheless conjecture that it was executed very slightly later than the Marriage at Cana – that is, in the years 1491–92. We therefore have a painting from the beginning of the career of the Master, who was active in Brussels from the end of the fifteenth century to around 1526; this would explain the restraint in the pictorial execution, which is of a fine quality throughout the work and is still close – in terms of its smooth modelling – to the traditional technique of the great Flemish painters of the fifteenth century. 

In conclusion, the altarpiece of the Miracle of the loaves and fishes is a work that has come from the Brussels workshop of the Master of the Legend of St Catherine, who has portrayed himself in one of its wings. Five artists, some of whom were already accustomed to collaborating, have participated in its execution: the Master of the Legend of St Catherine (the centre panel, The miracle of the loaves and fishes), the Master of the Portraits of Princes (the left wing, The Marriage at Cana), the Master of the Legend of St Barbara (the right wing, The Raising of Lazarus), the Master of the Magdalene Legend (The Rest on the Flight to Egypt on the reverse of the left wing), and finally the Master of the Embroidered Foliage, aided by an assistant and perhaps by the Master of the Legend of St Barbara (the St Peter on the reverse of the right wing).34Friedländer, vol. XII, p. 14, distinguished three hands: the Master of the Legend of St Catherine for the centre panel; the Master of the Portraits of Princes for the front and back of the left-hand wing; and the Master of the Embroidered Foliage for the front and back of the right-hand wing. 

The great pictorial quality of the Melbourne altarpiece as a whole confers upon it a special place in the production of narrative paintings during the last quarter of the fifteenth century. Indeed, it is not often that we encounter in a single work all of the following attributes: an identical level of care in the composition of each wing, in the rendering of the landscape, and even of the minor scenes; a tightness of execution in most of the modelling; and refinement in the overall chromatic effect, across a range that is both vivid and delicate, and includes subtle and changing tones. More often than not in this type of work, certain sections are privileged to the detriment of others. In the present triptych, however, even the reverse sides of the panels are equal in quality to their front surfaces. 

The commissioner of the panels was certainly no stranger to this level of care. This important personage, who may have been Adolph of Cleves, as Friedländer has suggested,35ibid., p. 14. would have taken his commission to the workshop which at that time enjoyed the most prestige, and in which, at least occasionally, the painters who were then in vogue were working. The fact that these masters worked within the same artistic circle would explain certain shared stylistic characteristics, as well as the analogies that may be found in their works in terms both of their ornamental vocabulary – in particular the species of plants, such as the stylised fern in the form of a wafer – and of their architecture, as in the motif of the half-timbered mill. 

The history of the altarpiece itself remains obscure. It might have been painted, according to Friedländer, in two stages – first the centre panel and then later the Marriage at Cana and Raising of Lazarus wings – but it might also be simply a planned and deliberate collaboration from within a single workshop. Whatever the case, the stylistic examination reveals that the timespan between the execution of the different sections of the altarpiece is not very great. However, elements of a historical nature that can be used in dating the panels are unfortunately limited to the Marriage at Cana wing. This work may be dated to the years 1491–92, as we have earlier demonstrated, on the basis of the presumed age of Philip the Fair.36Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Contributions to the Study of the Triptych with the Miracles of Christ’, p. 14. This timeframe would tally with that which we suggest for the Raising of Lazarus wing, provided that the attribution of the latter work to the Master of the Legend of St Barbara is accepted. In fact, the similarities that this composition shares with the accepted Brussels–Bruges panel, and with the Altarpiece of SS Crispin and Crispinian, paid for in 1490, locates the execution of the panel to this period, before the Banquet and the scenes from the life of Job in the Cologne altarpiece. The more rapid execution of the underdrawing of the modelling in the latter work, and the greater complexity in the arrangement of its narrative scenes — which have been fully thought out in advance and subjected to a large number of corrections in the underdrawing — denote a process of evolution in the manner of the Master. 

Like the front surfaces of the triptych, the works on the reverse of the left and right wings contain no elements that would allow for a precise dating. Yet logic demands that they were painted not long after their obverses, so that the altarpiece could be delivered to its commissioner. The execution of the Triptych with the miracles of Christ would thus – when all of the panels are considered together – be located to the period c.1492–95. This would be somewhat earlier than the date of 1500 put forward in 1971 by Hoff and Davies,37Hoff & Davies, p. 24. and would instead come closer to that of c.1495 proposed by Friedländer.38Friedländer, vol. IV, p. 59. 

We see, then, that the triptych of the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, although much studied since its acquisition by the National Gallery of Victoria in 1922, has not yet delivered up all of its secrets to the perspicacity of the art historians. We hope, nevertheless, that we have brought up a sufficient number of new arguments to close the debate surrounding the attributions of the different panels of the altarpiece. Because of its quality, the Melbourne triptych ought to be an obligatory reference work for the study of narrative paintings, and of the work of the most active of the Brussels masters in the last quarter of the fifteenth century. 

Catheline Périer-D’Ieteren, Université Libre de Bruxelles (in 1994).

Acknowledgements 

This text has kindly been translated from the French by Ms Dana Rowan. 

 

Notes 

1          C. Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Contributions to the Study of the Triptych with the Miracles of Christ: The Marriage at Cana’, Art Bulletin of Victoria, no. 31, 1990, pp. 2–19. (Published in French in Annales d’histoire de l’art et d’archéologie de l’Université Libre de Bruxelles, vol. XIV, 1992, pp. 7–25.) 

2          M. J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. IV, Hugo van der Goes, rev. edn, trans. Heinz Norden, Leyden, 1969, p. 59. 

3          U. Hoff & M. Davies, The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Les Primitifs flamands, I: Corpus de la peinture des anciens Pays-Bas méridionaux au quinzième siècle, vol. 12, Brussels, 1971, p. 20. 

4          ibid., p. 17, no. 7, pl. II. 

5          See R. van Schoute, La Chapelle Royale de Grenade, Les Primitifs flamands, I: Corpus de la peinture des anciens Pays-Bas méridionaux au quinzième siècle, vol. 6, Brussels, 1963, pp. 116–18, pl. CXC. This triptych was on loan to the Mauritshuis until 1984. It was sold at Christie’s, London, in 1990 (for a reproduction, see Christies, London, Old Master Pictures (sale cat.), 9 April 1990, lot 31, p. 51); its present whereabouts are unknown. 

6          C. Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Genèse de l’oeuvre et dessin sous-jacent dans les peintures du Maître de la Légende de sainte Catherine’, in Actes du Colloque X pour l’etude du dessin sous-jacent dans la peinture: Le Dessin sous-jacent dans le processus de création, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-La-Neuve, 1995 [forthcoming]. 

7          We examined this underdrawing, using infrared reflectography, in a day of study at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in 1988. Since that time, Mr Till-Holger Borchert has undertaken a study of the Altarpiece of Job under the direction of Prof. Molly Faries. We would like to express our gratitude to him for having provided us with photocopies of the relevant reflectogram montages, as well as with a copy of the reports prepared at the time the works were examined. N.B. In the interests of conciseness, we will make use of the following abbreviated titles: Cologne altarpiece (for the Altarpiece of Job at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum) and Brussels–Bruges panel (for the Legend of St Barbara panel at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, and the Musée du Saint-Sang, Bruges). 

8          We find the same approach in the drawing used to set down the forms in the Visitation and Scenes from the life of St Peter wings of the Cologne altarpiece. In that work, however, the underdrawing is used to indicate the modelling of the drapery; the handling of the drawn lines is energetic; and hatching and a wide variety of graphic marks are used to indicate the positioning of the shaded areas (see also note 7 above). 

9          The radiographic image shows that this figure has not been superimposed on a pre-existing figure. The volumes of her gown, which occupies an important part of the foreground, have, on the other hand, been adapted to the surrounding space: as we have seen, a tail of cloth in the drawing has been omitted from the painting – obviously so as to leave room for the legs of the figure we believe to represent the painter. Nevertheless, there is a striking contrast between the well-spaced distribution of the six principal figures on the right and the abnormally tight distribution of the seven figures in the group at the left. Turned in an artificial manner towards the viewer, the woman seems isolated from the group and leaves little room for the figure beside her, which must have been subjected to a distortion of the planes between the bust and the lower part of the body. Finally, we may ask ourselves whether it might not be the case that at the time of executing the painting the artist decided to add his own portrait to a model-figure – this seems all the more possible when we consider that a careful examination of the underdrawing reveals another male face, presented in profile and slightly receding in relation to the alignment of the figures. We can clearly see the contour of his headdress, as well as the eye, the nose, the chin and the mouth, under the present right cheek of the figure we believe to be the painter. Only new laboratory examinations, with more precision in their definition (infrared reflectography and radiography of the whole surface of the composition), will be able to confirm this latter hypothesis. 

10        The Master of the Legend of St Catherine is thought to be the son of Rogier van der Weyden and the probable heir to his workshop. 

11        C. Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Le “Retable du Martyre des saints Crépin et Crépinien” et le Maître de la Légende de sainte Barbe’, Bulletin des Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Miscellenea Henri Pauwels, nos 1–3, 1989–91, p. 171, n. 22. 

12        See Hoff & Davies, p. 18, no. 12, pl. II. In each of the two panels at Bruges is another male figure (wearing a black beret and dressed in a tabbaert) that might also be a portrait. 

13        ibid., pp. 7, 8, 14, 19, 21. 

14        Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Le “Retable du Martyre des saints Crépin et Crépinien”’, p. 157. 

15        Hoff & Davies, p. 21. 

16        Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Le “Retable du Martyre des saints Crépin et Crépinien”’, p. 171. A careful comparison of the mill in the Melbourne wing and that in the painting at Philadelphia reveals small differences in the details of the two structures, and modifications in their proportions. These variations exclude the possibility of a mechanical repetition of the motif, which instead simply denotes a common source of inspiration. 

17        J. Bialostocki, Les Musées de Pologne (Gdansk, Krakow, Warszawa), Les Primitifs flamands, I: Corpus de la peinture des anciens Pays-Bas méridionaux au quinzième siècle, vol. 9, Brussels, 1966, pp. 5–6. 

18        For an illustration of this radiograph, see Hoff & Davies, pl. XLIII. 

19        For an illustration of this drawing, see R. Guislain-Witterman, ‘L’Oeuvre du Maître de la Légende de sainte Barbe’, Bulletin de l’lnstitut royal du Patrimoine artistique, vol. XVII, 1978–79, p. 100. One may suppose that in his first works, which still adhered closely to tradition, the Master prepared the underdrawing for his modelling to a greater extent – so as to be able to envisage at this early stage the effects sought in a painting; one may equally surmise that in his later paintings, which are more narrative in character, he was satisfied with adumbrating only the main areas of shading. 

20        Friedländer, vol. IV, p. 59. 

21        ibid., vol. XII, Jan van Scorel and Pieter Coeck van Aelst, 1975, p. 14. The author had previously attributed this wing to the same artist as had painted the Raising of Lazarus (Friedländer, vol. IV, p. 59). 

22        N. Reynaud & J. Foucart, ‘Exposition Primitifs flamands anonymes’, Revue de l’Art, no. 8, 1970, p. 68. 

23        We would like to thank Mme Celia Fisher for having communicated to us her unpublished paper ‘Flowers and Gardens in Flemish Painting of the 15th Century’. Mme Fisher points to the analogies between the vocabulary of plants and flowers used by the Bruges painters, among them Hans Memlinc, and that used by the Master of the Embroidered Foliage. Stylised ferns, in particular, are found in the works of both masters, the difference residing in the manner – ‘stereotyped’ or ‘naturalistic’ – in which they are treated. These observations are further evidence of the stylistic relationships, already pointed out by several art historians, between the School of Brussels and that of Bruges – relationships that most often developed by way of Rogier van der Weyden and the painters of his circle, or the minor masters of the turn of the fifteenth century.

24        Hoff & Davies, p. 21. 

25        Reynaud & Foucart, p. 68. 

26        See Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Le “Retable du Martyre des saints Crépin et Crépinien”’, p. 172. 

27        There are not many infrared photographs of works by this master available, and so we are basing our arguments on examinations of the Virgin and Child at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille, and the Virgin and Child crowned by two angels at the Groeninge Museum, Bruges. 

28        Guislain-Witterman, p. 100. 

29        Within the framework of research into the distribution of labour in the Brussels workshops, it would be interesting to focus on the relationship between the authors of the underdrawing and the authors of the final painted composition. Did they necessarily have to be one and the same person in the case of a collaborative work? Could some masters have prepared the compositions and others have finished them? These are the kinds of questions we need to consider when examining the many new infrared documents made available over the last few years. 

30        Hoff & Davies, p. 20. 

31        For discussion of the Master of the Magdalene Legend’s Virgin and Child, see Gemäldegalerie Berlin – Gesamtverzeichnis der Gemälde, Berlin, 1986, no. 376 (inv. no. 552A). We are extremely grateful to the Curator of the Department of Old Master Paintings, Mr R. Grosshans, for having obtained for us a photograph of the panel as a whole, as well as a photograph of the work seen under infrared light, in order to help us to compare it with the left wing of the Melbourne altarpiece. 

32        See Le Beau Martin: Gravures et dessins de Martin Schongauer (vers 1450–1491) (exh. cat.), Musée d’Unterlinden, Colmar, 1991, pp. 264–5. 

33        The underdrawing of the gown of the angel, and of that of the Virgin, in the Annunciation altarpiece at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique – a work attributed to the Master of the Magdalene Legend – presents the same type of drawing: it is very spare and has been used solely for the placement of the folds. In this particular example, the drawing has been followed faithfully in the painting, the right-angled line ends being an indication of the area occupied in the painting by the angles of the folds. The handling of this drawing is hesitant in places, while the lines of some of the folds have been reworked – there is enough treatment of this kind as to perhaps betray the use of a model from a pattern book. 

34        Friedländer, vol. XII, p. 14, distinguished three hands: the Master of the Legend of St Catherine for the centre panel; the Master of the Portraits of Princes for the front and back of the left-hand wing; and the Master of the Embroidered Foliage for the front and back of the right-hand wing. 

35        ibid., p. 14. 

36        Périer-D’Ieteren, ‘Contributions to the Study of the Triptych with the Miracles of Christ’, p. 14. 

37        Hoff & Davies, p. 24. 

38        Friedländer, vol. IV, p. 59.