Wednesday, March 28, 2018

08 Painting by The Old Masters, Michael Pacher, Altarpiece of the Church Fathers. 30

Michael Pacher, (1430–1498)
Altarpiece of the Church Fathers, c. 1471-1475
Fathers of the Church: Jerome , Augustine , Gregory , Ambrose
Color on wood
103 × 91 cm (40.6 × 35.8 in)
Alte Pinakothek,  Munich, Germany

The picture shows the internal panels of the Altarpiece of the Doctors of the Church: Sts Augustine and Gregory on the central panel, Sts Jerome and Ambrose on the side panels.

The Altarpiece of the Church Fathers was created in 1483 for the Neustift Monastery near Brixen. With it Pacher reached a point at which the borders between painting and sculpture in the north were no longer clearly distinct, the altarpiece translates the subject of a carved shrine into panel painting. It thereby follows on from Rogier van der Weyden's Deposition from the Cross (Prado, Madrid, below), but goes far beyond the earlier painting in its optical missing of the two genres.

Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400–1464)
Deposition, c. 1435
 Oil on oak panel
220 x 262 cm
Prado Museum

Rogier van der Weyden (1399 or 1400 – 18 June 1464) was an Early Netherlandish painter. His surviving works consist mainly of religious triptychs, altarpieces and commissioned single and diptych portraits. He was highly successful and internationally famous in his lifetime; his paintings were exported – or taken – to Italy and Spain, and he received commissions from Netherlandish nobility and foreign princes. By the latter half of the 15th century, he had eclipsed Jan van Eyck in popularity. However his fame lasted only until the 17th century, and largely due to changing taste, he was almost totally forgotten by the mid-18th century. His reputation was slowly rebuilt during the following 200 years; today he is known, with Robert Campin and van Eyck, as the third of the three great Early Flemish artists, and as the most influential Northern painter of the 15th century. Karel van Mander wrote that the great artistic contribution of Rogier van der Weyden lies in his ideas, his composition and rendering of the soul's expression through pain, happiness or anger, and the tempering of this emotional testimony to the subject matter of his work.


Van der Weyden worked from life models, and his observations were acute, yet he often idealised certain elements of his models' facial features, and they are typically statuesque, especially in his triptychs. All of his forms are rendered with rich, warm colourisation and a sympathetic expression, while he is known for his expressive pathos and naturalism. His portraits tend to be half length and half profile. Van der Weyden used an unusually broad range of colours and varied tones; in his finest work the same tone is not repeated in any other area of the canvas; even the whites are varied. More

The altarpiece is a depiction of the four great Fathers of the Church. On the far left, Jerome is portrayed as a cardinal with the lion from whose paw he drew the thorn. Next comes Augustine, accompanied by a child in a reference to one of the legends surrounding his life: one day by walking by the sea sunk in thought, the saint came across a child scooping up water with a spoon. Third comes Pope Gregory the Great, who is seen delivering Emperor Trajan from Purgatory, and finally, on the right, the archbishop Ambrose, busy writing. The dove of Holy Ghost appears beside all four saints as a symbol of their divine inspiration.

The foreshortened floor tiles combine with the apparently projecting baldachins to confuse the eye, as real and pictorial space seem to overlap, The virtuosity of the foreshortening is not matched by the modelling of the figures, however, who acquire their volume primarily from the suggestive power of the vaulted canopy above them. More

PACHER, Michael
Altarpiece of the Church Fathers: St Jerome, c. 1483
Color on wood
216 x 91 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Jerome of Stridonium, who was born around 347AD, and is best known for the legend in which he drew a thorn from a lion’s paw, and in Michael Pacher’s depiction of the saint (above), we see him draped in the red robes of a cardinal, stroking the lion.  was a priest, confessor, theologian and historian. He was the son of Eusebius, born at Stridon, a village near Emona on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia, then part of northeastern Italy. He is best known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin (the translation that became known as the Vulgate), and his commentaries on the Gospels. His list of writings is extensive.

The protégé of Pope Damasus I, who died in December of 384, Jerome was known for his teachings on Christian moral life, especially to those living in cosmopolitan centers such as Rome. In many cases, he focused his attention to the lives of women and identified how a woman devoted to Jesus should live her life. This focus stemmed from his close patron relationships with several prominent female ascetics who were members of affluent senatorial families.

He is recognised as a Saint and Doctor of the Church by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Communion. More

PACHER, Michael
Altarpiece of the Church Fathers: St Augustine, c. 1483
Color on wood
216 x 91 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich


The reason for the child’s inclusion harks back to the legend regarding St Augustine and his struggle to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity. More

Augustine of Hippo (13 November 354 – 28 August 430), was an early Christian theologian and philosopher whose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy. He was the bishop of Hippo Regius (modern-day Annaba, Algeria), located in Numidia (Roman province of Africa). Scholars generally agree that Augustine and his family were Berbers, an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa,. He is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers in Western Christianity for his writings in the Patristic Era. Among his most important works are The City of God and Confessions.

According to Jerome, Augustine "established anew the ancient Faith." In his early years, he was heavily influenced by Manichaeism and afterward by the neo-Platonism of Plotinus. After his baptism and conversion to Christianity in 386, Augustine developed his own approach to philosophy and theology, accommodating a variety of methods and perspectives. Believing that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom, he helped formulate the doctrine of original sin and made seminal contributions to the development of just war theory.

When the Western Roman Empire began to disintegrate, Augustine developed the concept of the Church as a spiritual City of God, distinct from the material Earthly City. His thoughts profoundly influenced the medieval worldview. The segment of the Church that adhered to the concept of the Trinity as defined by the Council of Nicaea and the Council of Constantinople closely identified with Augustine's City of God. More

PACHER, Michael
Altarpiece of the Church Fathers: St Gregory, c. 1483
Color on wood
216 x 91 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich


The legend surrounding  Pope Gregory the Great, was that while he was walking through the Forum of Trajan, he thought of the justice of that emperor towards a poor widow deprived of her only son by a violent death.  On entering St. Peter’s he prayed that the soul of so virtuous an emperor might not be forever lost, and his prayers were answered.  The panel painting depicts Gregory rescuing the Roman Emperor Trajan from Purgatory by the power of prayer. More

Pope Saint Gregory I (c. 540 – 12 March 604) was pope of the Catholic Church from 3 September 590 to his death in 604. Gregory is famous for instigating the first recorded large-scale mission from Rome to convert a pagan people to Christianity. Gregory is also well known for his writings, which were more prolific than those of any of his predecessors as pope. The epithet Saint Gregory the Dialogist has been attached to him in Eastern Christianity because of his Dialogues. For this reason, English translations of Eastern texts will sometimes list him as Gregory "Dialogos" or the Latinized equivalent "Dialogus".

A senator's son and himself the Prefect of Rome at 30, Gregory tried the monastery but soon returned to active public life, ending his life and the century as pope. Although he was the first pope from a monastic background, his prior political experiences may have helped him to be a talented administrator, who successfully established papal supremacy. During his papacy he greatly surpassed with his administration the emperors in improving the welfare of the people of Rome, and successfully challenged the theological views of Patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople before the emperor Tiberius II. Gregory regained papal authority in Spain and France, and sent missionaries to England. The realignment of barbarian allegiance to Rome from their Arian Christian alliances shaped medieval Europe. Gregory saw Franks, Lombards, and Visigoths align with Rome in religion.

Throughout the Middle Ages he was known as "the Father of Christian Worship" because of his exceptional efforts in revising the Roman worship of his day. His contributions to the development of the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, still in use in the Byzantine Rite, were so significant that he is generally recognized as its de facto author. More

Michael Pacher (1430–1498)
Fathers Altar, St. Ambrose, c. 1471-1475
Color on wood
216 × 91 cm (85 × 35.8 in)
Alte Pinakothek

Legend has it that a swarm of bees settled on Ambrose’s face while he lay in his cradle, leaving behind a drop of honey. His father considered this a sign of his future eloquence and “honeyed tongued”.  For this reason, bees and beehives often appear in depictions of St Ambrose. More

Aurelius Ambrosius, better known in English as Saint Ambrose, was a bishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century. He was consular prefect of Liguria and Emilia, headquartered in Milan, before being made bishop of Milan by popular acclamation in 374. Ambrose was a staunch opponent of Arianism, and has been accused of fostering persecutions of Arians, Jews, and pagans.

Ambrose was one of the four original doctors of the Church, and is the patron saint of Milan. More

On the reverse sides of the two wing panels there are two further paintings which can only be viewed when the altarpiece is closed.

PACHER, Michael
Altarpiece of the Church Fathers: St Augustine Liberating a Prisoner, c. 1483
Color on wood
103 x 91 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

PACHER, Michael
Altarpiece of the Church Fathers: Vision of St Sigisbert, c. 1483
Color on wood
103 x 91 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Sigebert III (c. 630–656/660) was the king of Austrasia from 634 to his death; around 656–660. Sigebert was the eldest son of King Dagobert I and his concubine Ragnetrude and half-brother of King Clovis II. His wife was Queen Chimnechild of Burgundy and their son was King Dagobert II. His granddaughters were said to be saints Adela and Irmina.

To satisfy the Austrasian aristocracy, Sigebert's father gave him the kingdom of Austrasia, although it remained part of the larger Frankish realm. On the death of his father, Sigebert ruled Austrasia independently and free from any subjection to Neustria. Under the tutelage of Pepin of Landen and other saints of the time, the young king grew into pious adulthood.

He tried in vain to add Thuringia to his kingdom, but was defeated by Duke Radulph in 640. Though only ten years of age, he was the leader of his army. The Chronicle of Fredegar records that the rout left him weeping in his saddle. The downfall of the Merovingian dynasty was a result of child rule, for both Sigebert and his younger half-brother, who ruled in Neustria, were prepubescent children who could not fight on the field and whose regents had their own interests at heart.

It was under his reign that the Mayor of the Palace began to play the most important role in the political life of Austrasia. Mayor Grimoald, the son of Pepin, managed to convince the king to adopt his son Childebert. When Sigebert finally had a son of his own, the future Dagobert II, the mayor felt threatened, and on the death of Sigebert (at the age of 25) he exiled the young Dagobert to Ireland. Sigebert's remains, defiled during the French Revolution, are preserved in the cathedral at Nancy.

Though not a success as a king, he was revered as the founder of numerous monasteries, hospitals, and churches. He is regarded as a saint by the Catholic Church and is the patron saint of Nancy. More


Michael Pacher (c. 1435 – August 1498) was an Austrian painter and sculptor from Tyrol, active during the second half of the fifteenth century. He was one of the earliest artists to introduce the principles of Renaissance painting into Germany. Pacher was a comprehensive artist with a broad range of sculpting, painting, and architecture skills producing works of complex wood and stone. He painted structures for altarpieces on a scale unparalleled in North European art.

Pacher's masterpiece, the St. Wolfgang Altarpiece (1471–1481), is considered one of the most remarkable carved and painted altar shrines in all of European art. It contains scenes from the life of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Pacher's other great work, the Altarpiece of the Church Fathers, created in 1483 for Neustift Monastery, combined painting and sculpture to produce a unique art form.

Pacher's influence was primarily North Italian, and his work shares characteristics with that of painters such as Andrea Mantegna. German influences, however, are also evident in his work, especially in his wood sculpture. Pacher's fusion of Italian Renaissance and Northern Gothic realism helped him to produce a uniquely personal style of painting. More



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