Reconstruction of a Westphalian Altar-Piece: The Herzebrock Altar

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  • Reconstruction of a Westphalian Altar-Piece: The Herzebrock AltarAuthor(s): Michael LeveySource: The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 100, No. 666 (Sep., 1958), pp. 304-307Published by: The Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd.Stable URL: .Accessed: 06/12/2014 01:26

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    is a good example of Frans Hals' art (52). Its companion piece, in spite of slight differences of size, may, as Valentiner suggests, very well be the even more delicately painted Female Portrait, formerly in the collection of Comte de Ganay in Paris and now belonging to Countess Mountbatten.26 There are some fine and typical landscapes by Jan van de Cappelle (46), Meindert Hobbema (53), and Jacob van Ruisdael (7, Rosenberg No.232; 12, Rosenberg No.335), a colourful Vase of Flowers by Jan van Huysum (i5), three characteristic and spirited portraits by Bartholomeus van der Heist (5, 50, 54), and a series of exquisitely-finished genre pictures by Terborch (2: a version of a picture in Leningrad of good quality and design and certainly autograph), two Interiors by Pieter de Hooch (5i and 55), both late works and on a dark scale, and two others by Jacob Ochtervelt (48; 49: from the last years of his life, an outstanding master- piece, and most attractive in its contrast of salmon-red and brown). These may not have the same quality and charm of the pictures by Gabriel Metsu in the Beit Collection, but all of them, nevertheless, reach a high standard of perfection. The same could be said of some of the minor masters like Simon Kick (I3), Eglon van der Neer (56), and Ludolf de Jongh (65) who are shown at their best.

    Difficult problems of authorship are posed by the three pictures attributed to Rembrandt or his manner. Pilate wash- ing his Hands (59) which in the sale of 1923 was attributed to Aert de Gelder is obviously of much earlier date, and the composition in half-figures is, as B. Nicolson27 has pointed out, based on Terbrugghen's picture of the same subject in the Cassel Gallery (No.589). The connexion of Rembrandt with the School of Utrecht before his apprenticeship with Lastman has often been observed, but there is no other example where the relationship is as close as here. On the other hand, the pictorial treatment is reminiscent of the 'man- ner of Rembrandt' in his earliest work, and brings to mind the Feast of Esther in the museum at Raleigh, North Carolina.28

    Nearer to Rembrandt's style of the middle thirties, but equally uncertain as far as the attribution is concerned, is the half-figure of a Lady as 'Flora' (Io; Fig.7). A proper assessment of the picture is rendered more difficult by the fact that it is a fragment of a larger composition which con- tained at least two figures. Iconographically it more prob- ably belongs to a composition such as The Betrothal in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, probably by Gerrit Willem Horst (detail, Fig.8)29 than to a pastoral scene as the cata-

    logue suggests. Colour scheme and impasto point to Rem- brandt himself, the treatment of the head with its stiff ex- pression to one of his more gifted pupils.

    Lastly, the Portrait of a bearded Old Man in a Cap (8) has been accepted as Rembrandt by Bode, Hofstede de Groot, and Valentiner. A. Bredius,30 who may have studied the picture in 1923, however, expresses some doubts which can easily be shared. The tonality of the picture with its soft gradations of ochre and brown and its pinkish lights, masterly in itself, but foreign to Rembrandt's technique, brings it close to the pupils of his late Amsterdam period, particularly to Barent Fabritius and Aert de Gelder. Unfortunately, the only indisputable Rembrandt in this collection, a Portrait of his sister Lysbeth,31 was sold in I923-

    It is probably a sign of the period that the collection con- tains an expressive Murillo, St Francis de Paola (9), but no works by the stern Zurbaran or VelAzquez. Obviously the canvas with the two 'Spanish' Princesses in their pink and white dresses, now attributed to Sebastiano Mazzoni (3), was

    acquired for its charm, not for being an autograph VelAzquez. The time for Greco and Goya had not yet come.

    Considerations for the rich and courtly decoration of a room certainly led to the acquisition of the four large Boucher cartoons (30, 31, 40, 42), whereas the exquisite small landscapes by the master (16, 41) must have been

    bought for their own sakes. With regard to the English school preference was given to

    Gainsborough and John Millais. Especially the series of full- length and half-length portraits by Reynolds and Gains-

    borough, among them the delightful Portrait of Mrs Drum- mond (36) in a cool mauve silk dress, and the Dehany family group (39), makes an impressive array. Gainsborough's two

    early landscapes (27,29) wholly appeal to modern taste. But in The Boy in a Van Dyck Costume of pale blue by Gains-

    borough (34), and in the choice of nineteenth-century works

    by Landseer, John Millais, among them the once-famous

    Cherry Ripe (78), and Alma Tadema, the 'period' character of the collection betrays itself.

    It is perhaps idle to reflect what Robinson could have

    acquired at the time when he collected and with the means at his disposal, and what he missed. It is certainly too much to ask a collector to look at a work of art not only in conven- tional terms, but also to recognize in advance of his time its eternal intrinsic value. Sometimes Robinson may have been misled by his judgement, but his effort was certainly not wasted and can still give enjoyment today. 26 Frans Hals, Klassiker der Kunst, ed. Valentiner [1921], p.169.

    27 Hendrick Terbrugghen [1958], p.54- 28 w. R. VALENTINER: Catalogue of Paintings, Raleigh [1956], p.51, No.65. 29 SIR WALTER ARMSTRONG, THE BURLINGTON MAGAZINE, XX [19I11-12], p.258.

    30 Rembrandt Gemiilde [1935], Fig.273. 31 A. BREDIUS, O. cit. [I1935], Fig.9o.


    Reconstruction of a Westphalian Altar-piece: The Herzebrock Altar

    THE Benedictine convent at Herzebrock, situated some way from Rheda, is recorded as having possessed a fifteenth-

    century altar-piece of which all that is usually supposed to have survived are two wings with scenes from the life of the

    Virgin' and a very small fragment of the head of a monk

    1 For reproductions of these, cf. Die Bau- und Kunstdenkmtiler von Westfalen (Kreis Wiedenbruck) [I901], pl.I3. The left-hand wing is also reproduced in the cata-

    logue of the exhibition Westfalische Maler der Spatgotik, Miinster [1952], pl.49. For some discussion of them (and the fragment mentioned immediately after in the text) ib. Nos.183-91. Also A. STANGE: Deutsche Malerei der Gotik; Nordwest-

    deutschland ... [I9541, P-35


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    (said to be from the central panel) (Fig.9) now preserved in the Landesmuseum, Mtinster.2 The altar-piece is one more example of the pervasive influence of the Master of Liesborn throughout one area of Westphalia in the latter half of the century. Its Liesborn connexion is obvious, though the degree of its closeness to the Master, as also its date, is a matter for discussion. The present note is to demonstrate that, though mutilated, the central panel of the altar-piece has also survived; and that an ingenious blend of carpentry and forgery has hitherto helped to conceal this fact. Since the fate of so many similar altar-pieces was dismemberment and partial destruction, it is a pleasant change to be able to re- assemble in part one of these Westphalian jig-saw puzzles.

    The Herzebrock convent3 in its original foundation dates from 86o; it was dedicated to SS. Christina and Petronella, a point worth returning to, and is recorded as having under- gone considerable rebuilding c.1474. Nothing is known, as usual, of the actual circumstances of the altar-piece's com- missioning, and there appear to be no references to it in situ. The convent was suppressed at the same time as other religious foundations throughout Westphalia, in I8o3, and no doubt at some time shortly after that date the altar-piece was dismembered: presumably because it was, along with many others, too cumbrous to be disposed of to private persons. A sort of souvenir attitude seems to have existed whereby fragments from such altar-pieces, usually human interest fragments like faces, were in demand; when they had been cut out, the rest of the panel was apparently thrown away. Such was clearly the fate of, for example, the Liesborn high altar-piece.

    The Herzebrock altar-piece too was cut up and some sur- viving parts of it were divided between two collections at Minden: the wings and the fragment of the central panel passing, no doubt together, into the Bartels collection where they are definitely recorded by I853.4 The central panel was claimed by Ltibke to have been in the Krtiger collection,5 a reference which recent scholars in the field seem to have over- looked but which had already been noted by Martin Davies some years ago. Having listed what remained in the Bartels collection, Ltibke went on to say of the whole altar-piece, 'Es war ein Marienaltar dessen mittleres, sehr zerstirtes Bild, die Madonna als Himmelskiinigin, nur kiimmerlich hergestellt worden ist und in der Kriiger'schen Sammlung sich befindet'. The picture to which

    Ltibke apparently referred was No.47 (Part I) of the Krtiger catalogue of I848, where it is listed simply as by an unknown master of the Westphalian school and no indication of provenance is given. Included in the portion of the Krtiger collection bought and retained by the National Gallery, this picture, No.215x, Virgin and Child with a Donor (Fig.I xI) does not appear in any Gallery catalogue before that of 1929 where no further comment on it is made.

    There are, straightaway, some points which would make

    Ltibke's identification quite likely, though very far from established. A severe handicap is the condition of the National Gallery panel (of oak, like the rest of the altar-piece) which has indeed been considerably damaged, and re- painted, and is coated by a heavy varnish. There is some analogy between the style of this panel and that of the very much better preserved Muinster wings; it is also apparent under the treacly brown repaint of the former that the Virgin's dress is, or was, of the same red and gold pattern as that in which she appears in the wings. Finally, though far from conclusively, the height of the proposed central panel accords exactly with the height of the wings.

    It is apparent, however, from the width of the wings in comparison with the very narrow National Gallery panel, that these three parts alone cannot constitute the complete altar-piece for the closed wings measure considerably more than the proposed middle panel. There is also the existence of the fragment of a monk's head which Ltibke said was from the central panel; it seemed conceivable that he was mistaken in this, or that he was wrong in supposing the Krtiger picture to come from Herzebrock (for what was the evidence?) or that the Mtinster fragment was from some other panel of the altar-piece, the rest of which had indeed been destroyed.

    Closer examination of the National Gallery panel shows that this has been ingeniously tampered with to conceal muti- lation. The head of the monk there, which had previously seemed oddly weak (as far as could be seen under the varnish), rather oddly reminiscent of the Muinster head, and definitely odd in the collar, is in fact a forgery on a separate piece of wood which has been skilfully inserted into the per- fectly genuine body of the panel. The joinery is made clearly apparent by a radiograph of the area (Fig.Io) which also conveys the lack of under-drawing in the face, the lack of priming in the portion of scroll at the upper left-hand corner of the inserted piece of wood, and - though barely apparent in the reproduction here - the very different formation of craquelure from that on the rest of the original panel. The extent of this insertion is seen in the reproduction, and the area is somewhat larger than the present dimensions of the Miinster fragment. No doubt to conceal what a literal Ausschnitt this was, it was presumably trimmed all the way round after removal and the tip of the donor's fingers and a portion of scroll have therefore disappeared. The inserted piece in the National Gallery panel is hidden at the back by a patch of canvas which hardly excites notice as the panel has been keyed and is variously patched together.

    Although the forged head seems to follow quite closely the original it is hard to decide whether the latter can have been available to the copyist. If it were, it is curious that he did not follow it exactly instead of inventing the anachronistic collar. On the other hand, there is a pentimento in the outline of the forged head (originally drawn somewhat rounder) which might suggest that the copyist was trying to get the exact shape of the genuine head. It should perhaps be added that the patterned green background in this is reproduced in the forgery as unpatterned, since it was only recent cleaning at Muinster which revealed the pattern. Further examination of the original shows that there are at the right traces of greyish- white paint which may be continuation of the right-hand pillar that appears in the central panel; this would indicate

    2 For an opportunity to examine this and reproduce it here, I am indebted to the kindness of Dr Paul Pieper. I am further indebted to Dr Pieper for so generously and fully discussing the problems of the Herzebrock altar with me, and for the suggestions he made. 3 For literature on the convent cf. L. SCHMITZ-KALLENBERG: Monasticon Westfaliae [1909o], PP35-6; additionally, L. H. COTTINEAU: Repertoire Topo-Bibliographique des Abbayes et Prieure's [I939], I, col.I412. * w. LOBKE: Die mittelalterliche Kunst in Westfalen [1853], P-352- SLoc. cit.

    6 'Die h. Jungfrau mit dem Jesuskinde und dem Donatar, von Engeln gekr6nt', cf. R. FRIrZ'S reprint of, and comment on, the Kruiger catalogue, Westfalen [1951], pp.87 ft.


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    that the donor's head was originally rather nearer to the pillar than as shown in the forgery. Finally, among these minutiae, it may be pointed out that the scroll beside the donor was repainted by the copyist or pasticheur with letters that make no sense.

    Probably it was originally intended that the central panel should, after the monk's head had been removed, be de- stroyed - or perhaps further cut up. It is not easy to explain why, instead, the panel was so skilfully patched up, but presumably a potential buyer had appeared on the scene -

    perhaps Kriiger himself. It is of course not possible to say exactly when the replacement was made; the present writer thinks it probably took place before Krtiger acquired the picture.

    A number of more important points remain for discussion. In re-uniting the Munster fragment with the rest of its panel it is clear that the kneeling monk in this is a Benedictine. After Sixtus IV had confirmed new regulations for the Herzebrock convent in 1477 it was decided that the nuns' confessor should be either a secular priest or a monk of the Benedictine order,7 and it might be tempting to see such a confessor as the donor of the original altar-piece. The monk's

    position next to the Madonna in the central panel would certainly suggest most strongly that he was the donor; and his scroll, which contains an appeal to the Christ Child for mercy, confirms this.8

    As has previously been noted, the identification of the central panel does not mean that the whole altar-piece can now be assembled. But a hypothetical solution, open doubt- less to a good many objections, would be the following: that the fixed centre of the altar-piece consisted of three panels all of the same width as the National Gallery panel, i.e. 50 cm (their total width then being approximately 150 cm) and that the Miinster wings closed over this (their width when closed is approximately 154 cm). What was on the outside of the Miinster wings would remain unknown. As for what filled the two narrow panels flanking the Madonna and Child with donor, it would be a neat supposition that the two patronesses of Herzebrock were shown: SS. Christina and Petronella. We know that it was usual to insert the patron saints of institu- tions into such altar-pieces; hence SS. Cosmas and Damian were in the high altar-piece of the Crucifixion in the abbey of Liesborn. And the format and subject of the original Herze- brock altar as suggested here would then be very similar to the Rosenkranzbild by the Master of S. Severin in S. Andreas at Cologne,9 itself considered as one of the earliest examples, if not the earliest, of the Rosencranz iconography. 10

    Leaving aside conjecture, it is now possible to consider the Liesborn relationship and the date of the Herzebrock altar-

    piece with an additional piece of evidence, even though it is

    damaged evidence.1"

    SDie Bau- und Kunstdenkmiiler . . . op. cit., p.30. 8 Discussion of this in detail does not seem necessary here, but it may be useful to supply the complete text (expanded): 'misere mei Clementissime Beate Christe Iesu Parvule et confessemam misercordiam tuam per intercessionem dulcissime genetricis tue lucem in concede perpetuam'. Of this 'et confessemam' is supplied from the corruption made in the sense by the painter of the inserted portion of the panel.

    9 For this picture further cf. STANGE: Deutsche Malerei ..; Kln ... von 1450 bis 1515 [1952], pp.I09/I 10. 10 See the discussion of the whole subject in K. KONSTLE: Ikonographie der christ- lichen Kunst [1928], I, pp.638 ff. 1x In general the tendency has been to place the Herzebrock altar post 1465 (i.e. the Liesborn high altar?) and pre 1489 (i.e. the 'I489' altar from Soest). Such a dating might well link up with rebuilding activity at Herzebrock c.I474, though there need of course be no connexion.


    The 'Tenture des Indes' in the Palace of the

    Grand Master of the Order of Malta THE celebrated Tenture des Indes, many times repeated as sets of tapestries in the eighteenth century by the Gobelins

    factory, has already been the subject of articles in THE BURLINGTON MAGAZINE.1 It is known that these tapestries were executed after certain paintings given by Prince Maurice of Nassau in 1679 to Louis XIV. These paintings representing exotic animals and plants had been made by two painters, Franz Post (who did the landscapes) and Eckhout (who did the plants and animals); the two artists

    accompanied Prince Maurice of Nassau on his colonial

    expedition to South America and Africa, an expedition undertaken on behalf of the Dutch India Company between

    1636 and 1644. The first series of tapestries was not executed until 1687,

    but between 1687 and I730, eight sets of the Anciennes Indes were woven.2 In spite of numerous repairs the cartoons were

    becoming rapidly worn out by the continuous execution of these sets of tapestries, and in 1735 M. Orry, director of the Bdtiments du Roi, ordered new cartoons from Franqois Desportes who executed between 1737 and 1741 eight cartoons inspired by the original compositions but intro-

    ducing certain modifications. Right up to 1794, these tapes- tries were woven by the Gobelins and were known as the Nouvelles Indes. This is an indication of the extraordinary success of these tapestries and the vogue for such subjects.

    A complete set of tapestries of the Anciennes Indes is still to be found hanging in the old palace of the Grand Master of the Order of Malta. The task entrusted to me by UNESCO in January I957 of examining the state of these tapestries gave me the opportunity to discover in the archives of the Order details concerning their early history.3 Their date had never been precisely established, although they had been studied by two French specialists who were administrators of the Gobelins factory and had been sent to Malta in the last

    1 MICHAEL BENISOVICH: 'The History of the "Tenture des Indes" ', THE BURLING- TON MAGAZINE, LXXXIII [September 1943], pp.216 ff.; THOMAS BODKIN: 'Les Nouvelles Tentures des Indes', loc. cit., LXXXIV [March 1944], pp.65 if. 2 FENAILLE: Etat Gneiral des Tapisseries de la Manufacture des Gobelins - Anciennes Indes, 11, p.371; Nouvelles Indes, Iv, p.40o. For these eight sets, two different hauteurs were used.

    3 The existence of these documents had earlier been brought to my attention by CLAIRE ENGEL, who refers to them in her book, L'Ordre de Malte en Miditir- rane', editions du Rocher [19571, PP-70-I.


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    Article Contentsp. 304p. 305p. 306p. [307]

    Issue Table of ContentsThe Burlington Magazine, Vol. 100, No. 666 (Sep., 1958), pp. i-x+299-332Front Matter [pp. i-x]EditorialBritain in Brussels [p. 299]

    The Robinson Collection [pp. 299-304]Reconstruction of a Westphalian Altar-Piece: The Herzebrock Altar [pp. 304-307]The 'Tenture des Indes' in the Palace of the Grand Master of the Order of Malta [pp. 306+308-311]Some Unpublished Works by Codazzi, Salucci Lemaire and Patel [pp. 311-317]Shorter NoticesItaly and the Grand Tour at Norwich [pp. 316+318-319]Joan Carlile: An Additional Note [pp. 318-319]The De Witte Couple by Van Dyck [p. 319]Fifty Years of Modern Art [pp. 319-320]Art Treasures from Japan: An Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture [pp. 320-323]

    The Literature of ArtReview: Fischer von Erlach as Historian of Architecture [pp. 323-325]Review: untitled [pp. 326-327]Review: untitled [p. 327]Review: untitled [pp. 327-328]Review: untitled [pp. 328-329]Review: untitled [p. 329]Review: untitled [p. 329]Review: untitled [pp. 329-330]Review: untitled [p. 330]

    Publications Received [pp. 330-331]Current and Forthcoming ExhibitionsDublin [pp. 331-332]General [p. 332]Manz Doors in Salzburg [p. 332]

    Forthcoming Sales [p. 332]Back Matter


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