The Master of Liesborn
A Westphalian painter, who in 1465 executed an altar-piece of note
in the Benedictine monastery of Liesborn, founded by Charlemagne.
His name is not mentioned by the historian of the monastery, who,
however, declares that the Greeks would have looked on him as an
artist of the first rank. Even in the fourteenth century the
Cologne school of painting found a rival in Westphalia, and in the
fifteenth century the latter could oppose the great Liesborn
painter to Stephen Lochner. These two have something in common
with each other and with the Van Eycks in Flanders, and both in
their work rather reflect the past than look into the future. On
the suppression of the monastery in 1807, the chef d'oeuvre of the
Westphalian artist was unfortunately sold, divided into parts, and
thus scattered. The principal parts, some of these purely
fragmentary, are now to be found in the National Gallery of
London, in the Muenster Museum, and in private hands. A fair idea
of the altar-piece may be formed from a copy in a church at
Luenen. The altar had not folding wings the painting being placed
side by side on a long panel. in the centre was the Redeemer on
the Cross, while Mary stood on one side with Cosmas and Damian,
and on the other John, Scholastica, and Benedict. Four angels
caught the blood which poured from the wounds. The touchingly
beautiful head of the Saviour is still preserved, as are the busts
of the saints whose countenances are so full of character and
nobility, and several angels with golden chalices. The background
is also golden. Four scenes chosen from Sacred History were
reproduced on the sides.
The painting of the Annunciation represents a double apartment
with vaulted ceiling, the front room being represented as an
oratory and the other as a sleeping chamber: the marble floor, the
damask curtains which surround the bed, a wardrobe, a bench some
vases, and writing material,all are carefully drawn and with due
regard for perspective; the arched doorway and the partition wall
are adorned with figures of Prophets and Christ, and a
representation of the world. The window looks out on a landscape.
The Blessed Virgin, clad in a blue mantle over a robe of gold
brocade, is seen in the front room turning from her prie-dieu
towards the angel, who, richly robed and bearing in his left hand
a sceptre, delivers his greeting. Of the Nativity group, there
still remain five beautiful angels, who kneel on the ground around
the effulgent form of the Child: there also remain two busts of
male figures which were probably part of this scene. Of the "
Adoration of the Magi " there is but one fragment left. The "
Presentation in the Temple " shows a venerable priest, to whom the
Mother presents her Child laid on a white cloth: three witnesses
surround the priest, while the mother is attended by two
maidservants carrying the doves. Several panels have been lost.
The Liesborn artist is not as skilfully realistic as van Eyck, but
his genius for delineation becomes quite apparent when one
observes the nobility of expression about the mouths of his
figures, the almond-shaped eyes, the loose curly hair, and the
natural folds of the garments. But his most characteristic claim
to fame lies in the purity of his taste and in his ideal
conception of a sacred subject. The great master's influence is
evident in other works, but no second work cam be attributed
directly to him.
Transcribed by Tomas Hancil
From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the
Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version copyright © 1996 by
New Advent, Inc.
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