UNKNOWN MASTER, altarpiece painter
Tempera on wood, 137 x 107 cm
Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest
On the edge of the bottom step of the throne we can see the sign G 1471 H, indicating the master's initials and the date of origin. On either side of the steps is the coat of arms of the patron, János Ernuszt, citizen of Buda. Ernuszt was Treasurer to King Matthias and in 1470 was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Turóc Country.
It can be assumed that since his patron was a member of the aristocracy, Master GH was in touch with artists in Buda, the seat of the Court, and that the altar therefore reflects the art of panel painting in Buda, of which no examples have survived.
In this picture, now in the Gallery, the Holy Trinity as the Throne of Mercy represents a special iconographic type. God the Father is depicted enthroned and holding his crucified Son before him, while the third member of the Trinity hovers above the head of Christ in the shape of a dove. The throne is covered by a "heavenly tabernacle" with curtains held apart by angels. Although this type of Holy Trinity picture had been known since the twelfth century, it was revived by the cult of venerating the body of Christ in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. The tabernacle, with curtains drawn aside to dramatize the subject, is first seen in Netherlandish painting towards the end of the 1430s in a painting by the Master of Flémalle, now in St. Petersburg. Thus the picture by Master GH bears witness to the widespread influence of this famous master.
The impact of Netherlandish art on Master GH's work is, however, also evident for instance in the elongated type of face given to the angels reminiscent of those in Dirk Bouts's paintings, and again in the representation of gems set in the hem of the garments and the halo of God the Father. The pictures adorning the wings also reveal the influence of Netherlandish painting.
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