UNKNOWN MASTER, altarpiece painter
Tempera on pine-wood, 109 x 102,5 cm
Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest
Together with three other panels in the collection of the Hungarian National Gallery, "The Flagellation", dating from around 1514, once decorated the outside of the wing of an altar.
This panel is one of the problematic works now in the Gallery. The emphasis on the cruel details of The Flagellation is in keeping with the period indicated by the date, but origin of the panel has always been a matter for speculation among the experts. They style is based on a mixture of elements taken from Dürer and the Danube School; the colours are as bright as those of Albrecht Altdorfer or Wolf Huber. These characteristics are enhanced by unrestrained animation. The figures seem to be unable to move in the low, squat space filled with an unnecessarily large number of columns, so that their gestures seem all the more violent. The columns suggest a grand portico, rather than a torture chamber; the head of a person lurking in the left upper corner could be that of the proconsul himself. At the beginning of the sixteenth century columns were a rarity in architecture north of the Alps; for this reason, they did not often figure in paintings. Thus their presence here adds an element of grandeur to the chamber, giving it a more contemporary Italian-ate appearance. At the same time, however, the queer, ring-shaped ornaments appearing at intervals on the stem of the columns, make them look awkward and primitive.
This picture is identified in the literature as one of several panels originating from Transylvania, the most likely breeding ground for the joint manifestation of such a variety of influences. However, this argument is no longer considered to be conclusive, for very similar panels originating from Salzburg and Hessen have now been found.
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