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Painting Title One of Two Wings of an Altarpiece: St Catherine of Alexandria, St Barbara and St Dominic
Collection York Art Gallery
Artist Attributed to the studio of Pleydenwurff, Hans (German painter and stained-glass designer, ca. 1425-1472)
Previously attributed to German (Nurembergian) school
Date Earliest about 1464
Date Latest about 1470

Recto, on a gold background, three saints are depicted in half-figures: St Catherine of Alexandria with book and sword; St Barbara with chalice and wafer and St Dominic with book and staff, which, according to the Golden Legend, were given to him by Sts Peter and Paul (Dominic was previously identified as St Anthony or St Thomas Aquinas). Verso, on a dark background: St Catherine of Siena with book, crucifix and halo, St Ursula with arrow and halo, and St Thomas Aquinas, with halo, lily and the Holy Spirit Dove (he was previously identified as St Dominic). The panel has been considered a pair with YORAG : 898a; most probably both were wings from the predella of a winged altarpiece, or perhaps of two similar altarpieces.

The recto panel was painted by the same hand as the wings of the altar of St Catherine of Siena from St Catherine's church in Nuremberg (Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, GM137, GM138, GM139 and GM140, and in the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh NC, USA (gift from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in New York). Those wings are attributed to Hans Pleydenwurff and his workshop, and the altar is known to have been consecrated on 20th August 1464. Although the panels in York have been considered as elements of the same altarpiece, it seems impossible to propose a good reconstruction (e.g. the Angel indicates that there used to be another element depicting the Virgin Mary so they could form an Annunciation). As a result, it is very likely that the panels from York, although created by the same artist as the wings of the altar of St Catherine of Siena, used to be elements of a different altarpiece (or even two separate ones), also from one of the Nurembergian churches. It is also very likely that this was one of the two Dominican churches in Nuremberg, as Hans Pleydenwurff's workshop worked for both of them. Additionally, the Dominican saints depicted in YORAG : 898b confirm that possibility.

Current Accession Number YORAG : 898b
Subject religion (saints)
Measurements 25.4 x 49.1 cm
Material oil on panel (oak)
Acquisition Details Given by F.D. Lycett Green through the National Art Collections Fund 1957.
Provenance Louis Breitmeyer sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 27 June 1930; Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 15 July 1955, lot 108 as by Master of Liesborn; Arcade Gallery, from whom purchased by F.D. Lycett Green 1957.
Publications Die Weltkunst. Illustrierte Zeitschrift für Kunst, 27, Jahrgang Nummer 8, April 1957, p. 21; PREVIEW. City of York Art Gallery Quarterly, 40, October 1957, vol. X, p. 390, ill. p. 393; York Art Gallery Catalogue - Catalogue of Paintings, Vol. I: Foreign Schools 1350-1800, City of York Art Gallery, York, 1961, pp. 89-90, pl. 78; Strieder, P., 'Miszellen zur Nürnberger Malerei des 15. Jahrhunderts', Anzeiger des Germanischen Nationalmuseums, Nürnberg, 1975, pp. 42-44; Suckale, R., 'Der Maler Johannes Siebenbürger (um 1440-1483) als Vermittler Nürnberger Kunst nach Ostmitteleuropa', Die Länder der böhmischen Krone und ihre Nachbarn zur Zeit der Jagiellonenkönige (1471-1526). Kunst - Kultur - Geschichte, ed. E. Wetter, Ostfildern, 2004, p. 372 as by Nurembergian co-worker of Hans Siebenbürger; Oil Paintings in Public Ownership. North Yorkshire, London, 2006, p. 285 as by German School; Suckale, R., Die Erneuerung der Malkunst vor Dürer, Petersberg 2009, vol. 2, cat. 38, pp. 117-123, ill. 856-857 as by workshop of Hans Pleydenwurff.

The panel has distinctive hinge marks on the side with the dark background under the present frame, but there are no such marks on the other panel (898a). It seems that the panels were reused, possibly in the 17th or 18th century, to be parts of some different structures. YORAG 898b was apparently attached to something with the hinges placed directly on the support. Later they were reframed (probably together as a pair, perhaps in 19th century;) and most likely the golden background was refreshed, as the support is painted in gold together with the frame. The new gold layer must have been thin, as it is cracked, repeating the original craquelures that go through the whole surface, including the figures.

Both panels 898a and 898b have been published several times since 1956 as of unknown location, although they have been in York Art Gallery since 1957. Robert Suckale recently ascribed them to the Norymbergian co-worker of Hans Siebenbürger (who was supposed to work in the workshop of Hans Pleydenwurff and later move to Vienna and be responsible for the main parts of so called Schottenaltar), and in the latest publication (2009) attributed them to 'Hans Pleydenwurff and Workshop'). He also sustained the assumption that both York panels are the parts of predella of Saint Catherine of Siena altarpiece from Saint Catherine Church in Nuremberg.

Francis Denis Lycett Green (1893-1959) was a member of the wealthy industrial Green family from Wakefield that was among the great philanthropic benefactors of York. He began buying pictures during the 1920s, advised by some of the most famous art historians of the day. By the 1940s, he owned examples from almost every school and period of European Art – a comprehensive collection of over 130 paintings dating back from the early 14th century to the end of the 18th century, representing every important European school of art. In 1952, he offered it to the National Gallery of South Africa, having moved to Cape Town in the hope that the climate would improve his health (which was poor because he was badly injured in the First World War). However when a dispute arose with the Cape Town Gallery, Francis withdrew his pictures in protest and shipped them back to England. The entire collection of 130 pictures was at first on loan to the York Art Gallery and in the spring of 1955 he decided to give it to the Gallery.

Rights Owner York Museums Trust (York Art Gallery)
Author Dr Magdalena Łanuszka



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