UNKNOWN MASTER, altarpiece painter
Mary High Altar (open)1543
Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest
Though traditional in form, this altarpiece is an extremely late work. It is of the quadripartite type, created in accordance with the tradition. The outer panels seem dull in comparison to the inner panels, the lunette and the predella which are all brilliantly painted in the traditional manner. The paintings are based on Dürer's work which still exerted a powerful posthumous influence all over Europe. The unknown master of the Csíkmenaság altar has in most cases simplified Dürer's compositions, adapting them to suit the smaller areas he had to cover. However, the ornamental carving of the framework of the altar already reflects the Renaissance trend. The rustic simplicity of the figures is characteristic of the style in its declining years. Yet these popular figures have a freshness that should by no means be underrated. The angels holding the crown above the Virgin's head, for example, have been taken from a Dürer engraving of 1518 or from a woodcut of the same year, but this is evident only from their carriage and the way they are holding the crown on high. While in Dürer's works they have a certain grace and dignity, here no trace of these qualities can be found. The pert carriage of their heads, their sturdy bodies like those of healthy children, and their chubby little faces give them a character all their own.
The central statues of the main body of the altar are from painited, gilded wood with height of 132, 35 and 30 cm, respectively. The height of the statues on the left is 60 and 56 cm, on the right 56 cm. The inner panels of the wings (tempera on pine-wood) are 85 x 53 cm, the tympanum 85,5 x 117 cm and the predella 47 x 125 cm in size.
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