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The Ascension of Christ

Hans Süss von Kulmbach (German, Kulmbach ca. 1480–1522 Nuremberg)

Date:
1513
Medium:
Oil on wood
Dimensions:
Overall 24 1/4 x 15 in. (61.5 x 38.1 cm); painted surface 24 1/4 x 14 1/8 in. (61.5 x 35.9 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1921
Accession Number:
21.84
  • Gallery Label

    This Ascension of Christ into heaven is emphasized by depicting him as leaving the pictorial space. Only his feet and lower legs, engulfed by clouds, appear at the top, while on the ground the twelve apostles and the Virgin Mary witness his departure. Kulmbach, who trained with Dürer, adapted the composition from a woodcut in his teacher’s Small Passion series. This painting and eight others (now dispersed among various museums) once comprised the wings and predella panel of an altarpiece devoted to the life of the Virgin. A sculpted Coronation of the Virgin (Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg) was the centerpiece.

  • Catalogue Entry

    Forthcoming

  • Provenance

    Frau Professor Dorner, Schweinfurt (in 1884 [or 1824]); government assessor Dorner, Amberg (in 1918); Herr Stallforth, Wiesbaden (until 1919; sale, Galerie Helbing, Munich, October 1, 1919, no. 109); [Julius Böhler, Munich; sold to Beskow]; [Axel Beskow, New York, until 1921; sold to MMA]

  • Exhibition History

    Nuremberg. Germanisches Nationalmuseum. "Meister um Albrecht Dürer," July 4–September 17, 1961, no. 161d.

    Little Rock. Arkansas Arts Center. "Five Centuries of European Painting," May 16–October 26, 1963, unnumbered cat. (p. 12).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Gothic and Renaissance Art in Nuremberg, 1300–1550," April 8–June 22, 1986, no. 166b.

    Nuremberg. Germanisches Nationalmuseum. "Nürnberg 1300–1550: Kunst der Gotik und Renaissance," July 24–September 28, 1986, no. 166b.

  • References

    "An Ascension by a Follower of Dürer." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 16 (June 1921), pp. 133–34, attributes it to Hans von Kulmbach, "probably Dürer's most accomplished pupil and assistant"; notes the excellent condition of the panel; states that the work is close to Dürer "in handling if not in spirit" and that the composition "strongly recalls Dürer's woodcut of the subject in his Little Passion, engraved about 1509–11"; explains that the practice of depicting Christ almost out of view as he ascends to Heaven had been a tradition in ivories and miniatures since the fourteenth century and also mentions an example in stained glass from the mid-thirteenth century.

    Hans Bermann. Hans Süß von Kulmbach. Leipzig, 1925, pp. IV–VI, 61, 66 [see Ref. Stadler 1936], dates it about 1513.

    E[rnst]. Buchner in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. 22, Leipzig, 1928, pp. 93–94, calls it a wing from a Marian altarpiece of the early 1510s, along with an Annunciation in the Germanisches Museum, Nuremberg; a Nativity in the Staatliche Gemäldegalerie, Bayreuth (now Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich); and an Adoration of the Magi with the dealer A. S. Drey (now Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, Pa.); identifies a Death of the Virgin sold at Helbing in 1919 as the predella (now Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich).

    Charles L. Kuhn. A Catalogue of German Paintings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in American Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1936, pp. 55–56, no. 207, pl. XL, dates it about 1510 and calls it "similar in style to the series of panels in the Uffizi, Florence"; does not connect it with the Allentown Adoration of the Magi, which he dates about 1515.

    Eberhard Lutze and Eberhard Wiegand. "Beschreibender Text." Die Gemälde des 13.–16. Jahrhunderts. 1, Leipzig, 1936, p. 76, under no. 1112, concur with Stadler's [see Ref. 1936] reconstruction and dating.

    Franz Stadler. Hans von Kulmbach. Vienna, 1936, pp. 19–20, 116, no. 63f, pl. 24, agrees that the MMA, Nuremberg, Munich, and Allentown panels originally formed parts of the same altarpiece, which he dates 1511–13, and adds four more panels to the work: Birth of the Virgin, Visitation, Christ Appearing to His Mother, and Pentecost (all Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig); suggests that a Coronation of the Virgin in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, was the central panel; does not associate the Munich Death of the Virgin with this altarpiece.

    Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 189–90, ill., accept Stadler's [see Ref. 1936] reconstruction.

    Friedrich Winkler. Hans von Kulmbach: Leben und Werk eines fränkischen Künstlers der Dürerzeit. Kulmbach, 1959, p. 69, considers the four panels in Leipzig to be from a different, earlier altarpiece than those in the MMA, Allentown, Nuremberg, and Munich.

    Karl-Adolf Knappe. "Meister um Albrecht Dürer." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 24, no. 3/4 (1961), p. 252, states that the exhibition established that the MMA, Allentown, Nuremberg, and Munich panels and the four Leipzig panels are from the same altarpiece, which must date from about 1512–13.

    Peter Strieder in Meister um Albrecht Dürer. Exh. cat., Germanisches Nationalmuseum. Nuremberg, 1961, pp. 100, 102–3, no. 161d, dates the MMA, Allentown, Nuremberg, and Munich panels about 1512–13; noting that the Nuremberg and Munich panels both come from the Landauer Brüderhaus in Nuremberg, states that the altarpiece must have been made for a Nuremberg church; calls these four panels stylistically more developed than the four Leipzig panels, which he dates about 1510–11 and assigns to a different altarpiece with the Munich Death of the Virgin as the predella.

    Friedrich Winkler. "Meister um Albrecht Dürer." Kunstchronik 14 (October 1961), p. 266, changing his earlier opinion [see Ref. 1959], states that the MMA, Allentown, Munich, and Nuremberg panels are from the same altarpiece as the four Leipzig panels, since all eight pictures have a painted grey border at either the top or bottom; doubts that the Vienna Coronation of the Virgin was the centerpiece.

    Konrad Oberhuber. "Meister um Albrecht Dürer." Christliche Kunstblätter 100, no. 2 (1962), p. 65, notes that the exhibition established that the MMA, Allentown, Nuremberg, and Munich panels, the Leipzig panels, and the Munich Death of the Virgin are all from the same altarpiece.

    P[eter]. Strieder in Kindlers Malerei Lexikon. 3, Zürich, 1966, p. 776, rejecting his earlier opinion [see Ref. 1961], considers the MMA, Allentown, Nuremberg, and Munich panels, the four Leipzig panels, and the Munich predella all part of the same altarpiece, which he dates about 1512–13.

    Colin Eisler. "European Schools Excluding Italian." Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. 4, London, 1977, p. 31, believes that the MMA, Allentown, Nuremberg, and Munich panels could have belonged to the same altarpiece as the four Leipzig panels only if the work originally included additional scenes now lost; doubts that this altarpiece included either the Vienna Coronation as the centerpiece or the Munich Death of the Virgin as the predella.

    Rainer Brandl in Veit Stoss in Nürnberg: Werke des Meisters und seiner Schule in Nürnberg und Umgebung. Exh. cat., Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg. Munich, 1983, pp. 137–39, fig. 93 (reconstruction of altarpiece with wings closed), proposes the reconstruction of an altarpiece with the MMA, Allentown, Nuremberg, and Munich panels as the exterior wings, a Meeting at the Golden Gate and a Presentation of the Virgin (both Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid) as the interior wings, the Munich Death of the Virgin as the predella, and a carved Coronation of the Virgin (1513; Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg) as the centerpiece; identifies this altarpiece with one described in 1778 in the church of St. Walburgis in Nuremberg [see Notes]; does not associate the four Leipzig panels with this work.

    Rainer Brandl. "A Marian Altarpiece by Hans von Kulmbach: A Reconstruction." Metropolitan Museum Journal 19/20 (1984–85), pp. 39–62, figs. 13, 19 (reconstruction of altarpiece with wings closed), repeats his proposal of 1983 [see Ref.], although suggesting a different arrangement of the four exterior wings.

    Barbara Rosalyn Butts. "'Dürerschüler' Hans Süss von Kulmbach." PhD diss., Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., 1985, pp. 73–75, fig. 49, accepts Brandl's [see Ref. 1983] reconstruction of the altarpiece, also accepting the four Leipzig panels as part of the same altarpiece.

    Kurt Löcher in Gothic and Renaissance Art in Nuremberg, 1300–1550. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1986, pp. 348–50, no. 166b, ill. [German ed., "Nürnberg, 1300–1550: Kunst der Gotik und Renaissance," pp. 348–49, no. 166b, ill.], believes that the MMA, Allentown, Nuremberg, and Munich panels comprised one side of the wings of an altarpiece, and the four Leipzig panels the other; accepts the inclusion of the two Madrid panels; states that the centerpiece was probably a Coronation of the Virgin; argues that the various subjects portrayed indicates that the altarpiece was devoted to the Mysteries of the Rosary or the Joys of the Virgin rather than to the Life of the Virgin.

    Isolde Lübbeke. Early German Painting, 1350–1550: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. London, 1991, pp. 282–83, 286–87, fig. 2 (reconstruction of altarpiece with wings closed), accepts the date of 1513 passed down from von Murr [see Notes]; proposes that the MMA, Allentown, Nuremberg, and Munich panels, together with the four Leipzig panels, comprised the outer wings of the altarpiece and that the two Madrid panels formed the inner wings, accepting the carved Coronation in Nuremberg as the centerpiece and the Death of the Virgin in Munich as the predella; mentions that "government assessor Dorner of Amberg" offered the MMA and Allentown panels and the Munich predella to the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, in a letter in 1918.

    Peter Strieder. Tafelmalerei in Nürnberg, 1350–1550. Königstein, 1993, pp. 135, 259–60, no. 132, fig. 531, accepts Lübbeke's [see Ref. 1991] reconstruction of the altarpiece and dates it about 1513.

    Alexander Löhr. Studien zu Hans von Kulmbach als Maler. Würzburg, 1995, p. 42 n. 119, pp. 44–47, fig. 27 (reconstruction of altarpiece with wings closed), accepts Lübbeke's [see Ref. 1991] reconstruction and identifies it with the altarpiece mentioned by von Murr [see Notes].

    Kurt Löcher. Die Gemälde des 16. Jahrhunderts. Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany, 1997, pp. 293–94, summarizes the various reconstructions of the altarpiece.

    Peter Klein. Letter to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. April 28, 2006, identifies the wood from which the panel is made as fir; writes that dendrochronological analysis reveals that the earliest felling date for the tree from which this panel is made is 1494, adding that a minimum of two years for seasoning means that the earliest possible execution date for the painting is 1496.



  • Notes

    This work is one of eight panels forming the outer wings of an altarpiece of about 1513. The other panels are: The Adoration of the Magi (Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, Pa.), The Annunciation (Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg), The Nativity (Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich; on loan to the Staatsgalerie und Städtische Gemäldesammlungen, Bamberg), and The Birth of the Virgin, The Visitation, Christ Appearing to His Mother, and Pentecost (all Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig). The inner wings are The Meeting at the Golden Gate and The Presentation of the Virgin (both Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid). The predella is The Death of the Virgin (Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich; on permanent loan to the Staatsgalerie und Städtische Gemäldesammlungen, Bamberg). The centerpiece is a sculpted Coronation of the Virgin by a pupil of Veit Stoss (Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg).

    Christoph Gottlieb von Murr ("Beschreibung der vornehmsten Merkwürdigkeiten in des H. R. Reichs freyen Stadt Nürnberg," Nuremberg, 1778, p. 32) describes an altarpiece in the church of St. Walburgis, Nuremberg, which may be this one. He does not mention the MMA panel specifically, but does describe two scenes that correspond to the panels now in Madrid and notes that below the centerpiece of a sculpted Coronation of the Virgin was a Death of the Virgin by Hans von Kulmbach of 1513.

    Kulmbach adapted the composition from a woodcut in Dürer's "Small Passion" series.

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