1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Grünewald, Mathias
GRÜNEWALD, MATHIAS. The accounts which are given of this German painter, a native of Aschaffenburg, are curiously contradictory. Between 1518 and 1530, according to statements adopted by Waagen and Passavant, he was commissioned by Albert of Brandenburg, elector and archbishop of Mainz, to produce an altarpiece for the collegiate church of St Maurice and Mary Magdalen at Halle on the Saale; and he acquitted himself of this duty with such cleverness that the prelate in after years caused the picture to be rescued from the Reformers and brought back to Aschaffenburg. From one of the churches of that city it was taken to the Pinakothek of Munich in 1836. It represents St Maurice and Mary Magdalen between four saints, and displays a style so markedly characteristic, and so like that of Lucas Cranach, that Waagen was induced to call Grünewald Cranach’s master. He also traced the same hand and technical execution in the great altarpieces of Annaberg and Heilbronn, and in various panels exhibited in the museums of Mainz, Darmstadt, Aschaffenburg, Vienna and Berlin. A later race of critics, declining to accept the statements of Waagen and Passavant, affirm that there is no documentary evidence to connect Grünewald with the pictures of Halle and Annaberg, and they quote Sandrart and Bernhard Jobin of Strassburg to show that Grünewald is the painter of pictures of a different class. They prove that he finished before 1516 the large altarpiece of Issenheim, at present in the museum of Colmar, and starting from these premises they connect the artist with Altdorfer and Dürer to the exclusion of Cranach. That a native of the Palatinate should have been asked to execute pictures for a church in Saxony can scarcely be accounted strange, since we observe that Hans Baldung (Grün) was entrusted with a commission of this kind. But that a painter of Aschaffenburg should display the style of Cranach is strange and indeed incredible, unless vouched for by first-class evidence. In this case documents are altogether wanting, whilst on the other hand it is beyond the possibility of doubt, even according to Waagen, that the altarpiece of Issenheim is the creation of a man whose teaching was altogether different from that of the painter of the pictures of Halle and Annaberg. The altarpiece of Issenheim is a fine and powerful work, completed as local records show before 1516 by a Swabian, whose distinguishing mark is that he followed the traditions of Martin Schongauer, and came under the influence of Altdorfer and Dürer. As a work of art the altarpiece is important, being a poliptych of eleven panels, a carved central shrine covered with a double set of wings, and two side pieces containing the Temptation of St Anthony, the hermits Anthony and Paul in converse, the Virgin adored by Angels, the Resurrection, the Annunciation, the Crucifixion, St Sebastian, St Anthony, and the Marys wailing over the dead body of Christ. The author of these compositions is also the painter of a series of monochromes described by Sandrart in the Dominican convent, and now in part in the Saalhof at Frankfort, and a Resurrection in the museum of Basel, registered in Amerbach’s inventory as the work of Grünewald.