September 2014 – Master of Pulkau, Presentation of the Virgin

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Oil on panel

111,7×74,5cm

No sign.

Inv.no. 238/01

Provenance: the Gallery of Julius Böhler Munich, Gallery Douglas, bought for SAC in 1932.

The painting of the Presentation of the Vrigin from State Art Collection has a very interesting and curious history. The painting was bought by Prince Paul Karadjordjevic for the SAC on in 1932 as a work of the famous German Renaissance artist Altdorfer. From its very entrance into the collection it was considered one of the most importnat works in the collection and was exhibited in the central hall of the White Palace. Nowadays it is kept in the hall of the Royal Palace in the Royal Compound.

On the basis of the latest discoveries, and the assistance of scholars from KHM, Vienna and Art Institute Chicago, this work can to ascribed, with great certanity, to the Master of Pulkau, an artist active in Austria and Bavaria in the first decades of the 16th century.

It is assumed that this interesting Renaissance artist was one of the first pupils of Altdorfer, and for that reason his works were long attributed to Altdorfer himself, just as it happened with the Presentation from SAC.

New research has discovered that the image of the Presentation was intitially a part of the doors of the great altarpiece that covered the sculpted shrine. While the Presentation (due to its rich decoration and the subtlety of its execution) most probably stood on the outer side of the doors, the inner side was decorated with the image of the Nativity presently kept in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Both of these works came from the gallery of Julius Böhler in Munich: the Presentation  was bought for SAC in 1932, and Nativity for AIC in 1933. Since the Presentation was from the very beginning in SAC in the Royal Compound in Belgrade and therefore not open to the general public, until recently it was considered to be a work in an unknown location.

Close examination of both works reveals great stylistic and compositional similarities. The faces and the drapery were executed in the same way, while the treatement of space in both is of particular interest.

The space in the upper part of the painting, the ceiling of the barn in Nativity and the vaults of the cathedral in the Presentation, was composed in the similar fashion with the specific spatial complexity. The overlapped beams adorned with the blades of hay, in the Nativity, and interwoven elaborate garlands and arches in the Presentation, represent almost an echo of the one space in the another. This dialogue of two pictorial spaces was of great importance for the function of the winged altarpiece. By opening of its doors, one image merged with the other, one space reflected the other, both offering the beholder a „moving image“ of the Biblical history, a history of which he became an immediate witness.

The rediscovery of this almost forgotten work of Master of Pulkau is of utmost significance. For that very reason, the Presentation from SAC would have the pride of place in the great exhibition devoted to Altdorfer and his pupils that is jointly organised by Stadel museum in Frankfurt  and KHM Vienna – Realms of imagination (November 2014-February 2015 Frankfurt, March – June 2015 Vienna). On this exhbition, first time after many centuries, two panels from the same altar Presentation from SAC and Nativity from Chicago, would be reunited, and the audience would have the unique oportunity to perceive the true importance of this complex religious painting.

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