The Isenheim Altar is the convertible altar from the Antonite monastery in Isenheim in Upper Rhine ( department Haut-Rhin ), which is exhibited separately on three sides in the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar . The paintings on two fixed and four rotating altar wings are the main work of Matthias Grünewald (Mathis Gothart Nithart, called Grünewald), created between 1512 and 1516, and at the same time one of the most important masterpieces of German panel painting. The sculptures in the altar shrine are attributed to the sculptor Niklaus von Hagenau , who worked in Strasbourg around 1490 .
Presentation of the Isenheim Altarpiece in the Colmar Museum
The individual parts of the altarpiece of Isenheim, consisting of eleven painted panels and carved figures are on display at the Museum Unterlinden in three groupings each with its own base today, with the original state had to be abandoned with the movable altar wings in favor of a separate list of the individual Panel pictures to be able to present all sides at the same time and in the same room:
• First display side: Crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the closed altar wings (central panel). On both sides the fixed wing paintings with the martyr Sebastian and the hermit Antonius . Pedestal painting in the predella : Lamentation of Christ . (Original backs of the central panel: Annunciation of the Lord and resurrection of Jesus Christ as left and right wing image of the second display side with the outer wing doors open.)
• Second side: concert of angels and the Incarnation of Christ on the closed inner wings of the altar (central panel); next to it the outer double doors with the Annunciation and the Resurrection. Predella as on the first face. (Original back of the central panel: Antonius' visit to Paulus von Thebes and the temptations of Antony as left and right wing image of the third side with open altar wings.)
• Third side: altar shrine with carved sculptures by Anthony in the middle with the church fathers Augustine of Hippo and Jerome to the side; next to it the outer double doors with a visit of Antony to Paulus of Thebes and the temptation of Antony. Pedestal shrine in the predella: carved busts of Christ and the apostles .
Background: The Antoniter Order
The order of the Antonites was founded around 1095 in Saint-Antoine-en-Viennois , a village in the Isère département near Grenoble , as the lay brotherhood of the Fratres hospitales sancti Antonii . The Order of the Antonites , named after the first Christian monk Antonius the Hermit (around 251–356), was a hospital order whose main tasks included nursing, especially caring for people who were sick with ergot poisoning , which was widespread at the time . The poisoning with this fungus, which particularly attacked the rye , caused severe burning pain, which was called "Holy Fire" or " Antonius Fire ", for which there was hardly any remedy. This pain was burning in the extremities, which began to die by continual vasoconstriction - an effect of composing the "mother grain" alkaloids . Ergot is a black body of fungus that replaces a grain of rye and which was often not sorted out during grinding. Anyone who suffered from convulsive ergotism , the so-called "tingling disease", suffered from cramps, persistent painful contractions, thirst and hallucinations. The ergotism gangrenosus , the so-called "fire epidemic", was characterized by narrowing of the blood vessels and disturbance of the blood circulation; this could lead to stagnation, toxic necrosis, and limb fall off.
In 1247 Pope Innocent IV raised the Antonites to an order living according to the Augustine rule under the central direction of an abbot in Saint-Antoine. From there, general preceptorships were gradually established in Central Europe, which were subordinate to a preceptor . a. in the middle of the 13th century in the free imperial city of Colmar, which had smaller branches in Basel and Strasbourg , and before 1290 also in Freiburg im Breisgau . In 1313, the Colmar Antonites bought the Dinghof in Isenheim from the Benedictine abbey of Murbach , which had got into economic difficulties , in order to build a new general presidency in Isenheim.
In the years after 1313, the construction of the monastery with a church, hospital and hospice for priests , lay brothers and conversations as well as for the sick, cripples and pilgrims to be admitted was designed on the site of the former Dinghof on the old trade and pilgrimage route in Isenheim . When the Preceptor Jean d'Orlier died (1490), the monastery buildings and the eastern part of the hospital church with the choir vestibule were completed. Under Preceptor Guido Guersi (1490 to 1516) the western parts of the church were also completed. Contrary to the usual rule for mendicant orders , Guido Guersi also had a church tower built on the north corner of the west facade, equipped with two hermit housings.
The Antoniterkloster in Isenheim was on the old Roman road Mainz - Basel, which was also often used by pilgrims on their pilgrimage to Rome , to Santiago de Compostela or to Einsiedeln . The Isenheim Altarpiece was intended for the hospital church. The newly admitted sick were brought to the altar at the beginning of their medical treatment or they were also placed on stretchers in front of the altar, as it was hoped that St. Antonius works a miracle or the patient can at least gain spiritual consolation from contemplating the altarpieces. According to the medieval view, meditation pictures , to which the Isenheim Altar also belonged, were quasi medicina : The picture was supposed to provide relief of pain and recovery if the viewer identified himself with the figures depicted in the pictures and thereby experienced a mental strengthening that gave him the physical Forgotten pain.
In 1777, the Order of Antonites was incorporated into the Sovereign Order of Malta . The interior of the church in which the altar originally stood was destroyed by fire in 1831; at that time the altar had already been moved to Colmar.
History of the Isenheim Altarpiece
The monastery in Isenheim had previously owned a convertible altar , which Martin Schongauer had painted in 1475 on behalf of the monastery president Johann de Orliaco (Jean d'Orlier in French). When closed, it showed the annunciation scene with Mary and the angel Gabriel on the two fixed wings of the triptych . When opened, one saw on the left wing how Maria adores the child, and on the right Antonius the hermit with the figure of the founder of the former monastery president Jean d'Orlier. When open, a life-size sculpture of the Virgin Mary could be seen in the middle. The altar wings are exhibited in the Unterlinden Museum; the Marian sculpture has been in the Louvre in Paris since 1924 .
It is unclear and, due to the lack of documents, presumably can no longer be clarified when and where Grünewald started the preparations for the altar paintings and where his workshop was located. In addition, it is still not clear why the choice fell on Grünewald. As well as Grünewald's works are known today, the dates of his life are so little certain. He was probably born in Würzburg around 1475/1480 and died in Halle / Saale in 1528 . The name "Grünewald", which is in use today, is based on an error made by the art writer Joachim von Sandrart in his "Teutschen Academie" from 1675; the painter's real name was Mathis Gothart Nithart; Gothard was the family name and Nithard perhaps a second family name or a kind of nickname that meant something like "Grimmbart" or "Streithansel". Only a few of his works are signed; the altarpiece with St. Sebastian is said to have the indistinct monogram MGN. The ointment vessel next to Mary Magdalene on the crucifixion tablet is said to contain the date 1515 entered by the painter in the ornaments.
Grünewald was looking for a new image of man and a new form of expression in painting. “Grünewald's peculiarity and importance lies in his outstanding painterly skill, which he composes in strong contrasts as well as in the finest gradations and in a generous distribution of light and shadow from the context of color. ... In his peculiarity he has achieved the highest level that seems more incomprehensible than Dürer's great deeds ”.
It is known that in the past both the Bavarian Duke Wilhelm V (1548–1626) and Elector Maximilian of Bavaria (1573–1651) as well as Emperor Rudolf II of Habsburg (as early as 1597) and the Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg (still 1674) have tried in vain to acquire the Isenheim Altarpiece.
The altar was taken apart several times and stored in other places or rebuilt, for example 1656 to 1657 in Thann , 1793 to 1852 in the former Jesuit college in Colmar, 1852 to 1914 in the new Unterlinden Museum in Colmar, 1914 to 1917 in the safe of the Sparkasse in Colmar, from 1917 to 1919 in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich . In 1919 the altar was returned to Colmar. In August 1939 it was brought to Lafarge Castle near Limoges and Hautefort / Périgord Castle together with other Alsatian cultural assets . After it was returned to Colmar in October 1940, it was stored in the Hohkönigsburg in Alsace in 1942 . In July 1945 it was returned to the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar, where it could be viewed until 2013. From 2013 to 2015 he was in the Dominican Church in Colmar and since 2015 in the restored and converted Museum Unterlinden. The carving surrounding the altar remained in Isenheim in 1783 and has disappeared since 1860.
In 1912 the small sculptures of the two kneeling men with rooster and piglet from the middle section of the carved altar shrine, which had been missing for decades, were found in the Munich Böhler Collection and their affiliation to the Isenheim Altarpiece was found. In 1977 the Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe was able to acquire both figures and in 1984 gave them to the Unterlinden Museum in exchange for an important Gothic sculpture from the Konstanz area.
Since 1794 there have been a total of eight restorations which, due to the technical possibilities, did not reach today's standards. In 2011 a restoration of the paintings began. The removal of yellowed varnish layers was canceled after public criticism. The Isenheim Altarpiece has been re-presented since 2015. It was framed in simple steel structures to emphasize the status of the altar as a work of art. To this end, new lighting was installed in the altar parts. The interrupted restoration was resumed from autumn 2018 and is expected to take four years.
Conception of the Isenheim Altarpiece
The artists working at the altar largely followed the plans of their clients and advisers, including in particular the Preceptor Jean d´Orlier and his successor Guido Guersi, who in turn referred to the theological knowledge of their time as well as the writings of the Church Fathers and the teachings of Scholasticism have held.
Jean d´Orlier , probably born in Savoy around 1425 , initially a Preceptor of the Antonite House in Ferrara , a center of humanism , then from 1464 to 1490 a Preceptor in Isenheim. The conception of the entire altar work is attributed to Jean d'Orlier, especially the pictorial development of the altar symbolism.
Guido Guersi , Preceptor of the Antonite Monastery of Isenheim from 1490 to 1516, previously sacristan and confidante of Jean d'Orlier, who had designated him as his successor. His coat of arms and perhaps also his portrait can be found on the panel with the visit of Antonius to Paulus von Thebes.
The altar originally stood in the apse of the hospital church of the Antonite monastery in Isenheim, which was built in the early 15th century. It was framed and raised by canopies and pinnacles , so that with a height of about 8 m it almost reached the choir vault.
From the beginning, the various sides of the altar were aligned with the liturgical church year , so that it must be clear from the course of the liturgical year which sides were opened on which days. The following order can be assumed:
The closed reredos are dedicated to pain. The middle panel with the crucifixion and the two wing paintings with Sebastian as patron of the dying and Antonius as patron of the order as well as the lamentation of the dead Christ on the predella could be seen on all normal working days and during Lent . The middle face with the Annunciation, Angel Concert, Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ depicts the jubilation and triumph of faith; it was opened: during Christmas time and perhaps also in Advent and from Easter to Pentecost ( Pentecostes ), probably also on Sundays. The inner face with the shrine altar of the order patron Antonius as well as with Hieronymus and Augustine and with the two panels from the life of Antonius was probably shown on the feast of St. Anthony (January 17) as well as when taking a religious vow, ordaining a priest or when a new Preceptor takes office.
While the visions of Birgitta of Sweden are said to have been decisive for the pictorial program of the Stuppach Madonna , also painted by Grünewald , it was probably the visions of Hildegard von Bingen for the Isenheim Altarpiece .
The first picture
With a height of 269 centimeters and a width of 307 centimeters, the crucifixion picture was the largest that had been created in European painting until then. (Almost 50 years later Jacopo Tintoretto painted an even larger picture of the Crucifixion , which, however, combines several scenes.) The cross, moved slightly to the right from the center, dominates the representation.
The allocation of the two inactive leaves to the main picture is still controversial in art history. From Heinrich Alfred Schmid's first publication on Grünewald's work (1911), until the 1970s, it was argued again and again that the panel of Antonius was on the left-hand side and that of Sebastian on the right; because in this way the side pictures would have the function of framing the main picture.
The triptych has been exhibited in the order shown above in the Museum Unterlinden since 1965. One of the reasons for this choice was that the position of the existing hinges on the inactive leaves corresponded to it; But above all, the detailed description of the altar by Franz Christian Lerse (1781) - before it was partially destroyed during the French Revolution - dictated the current arrangement. Another factor in favor of this solution was that the bright window in the inactive wing of Sebastian and the devil figure in the slug of the Antonius wing were no longer in the immediate vicinity of the relatively dark main picture; but even this argument was not without contradiction.
The second picture
In their original state, the two panels with Sebastian and Antonius next to the crucifixion panel of the first mural were covered after the outer altar wings were opened. The so-called “Angel's Concert” and the “Incarnation of Christ” could be seen on the still closed inner wings of the altar. The predella with the Lamentation of Christ was retained in the transformation into the second image; she should z. B. also remind during the Christmas season that the joyful birth will be followed by the death on the cross.
The third picture
After opening the inner wing of the altar, the altar shrine with the sculptures became visible, which presumably came from the Strasbourg carver Niklaus von Hagenau: In the shrine are the gilded sculptures of Antonius (in the center) as well as of Augustine (left) and Hieronymus (right). With the third painting, the inner predella with the carved figures of Christ and the apostles is also opened. This third painting is primarily dedicated to the veneration of Antony. He is depicted in the center of the shrine and on the two painted altar wings: on the left his visit to Paulus of Thebes and on the right the temptations of the hermit Antonius.
The paintings of the first mural
Sebastian and Antonius on the wings of the first painting
In the original arrangement of the altar, the two fixed wings with Antonius and Sebastian were set back two frame depths in order to have enough space for two turned back altar wings when the altar was opened. The two patron saints were particularly venerated in Isenheim for contagious diseases, especially plague and Antonius fire. Both figures are presented in a sophisticated way as colored, painted sculptures that stand on a plastic-looking pedestal made using the grisaille technique .
Sebastian is shown on the left wing . He was an officer in the life guard of Emperor Diocletian and was martyred by arrows during the persecution of Christians around 300 because of his faith and then killed. According to a pagan idea, the plague was spread by poisoned arrows directed at humanity by an angry god, which Homer has already taken up in his Iliad . In the Middle Ages , Sebastian became the saint of the plague . The martyr, pierced by arrows, stands - like a sculpture - on a stone console , already untied from the column behind him. Sebastian seems to ignore his wounds and to feel no pain. He has put his raised hands together, comparable to the hand position of Mary under the cross, and thus indicates that he accepts his suffering. The sight of this saint, who resists his suffering, gave hope to the patients of the Isenheim hospital praying in front of him.
Behind Sebastian, a window allows a view of a landscape with a mountain range, above which two angels carry the martyr's crown and another angel carries away the collected arrows. What is unusual about this depiction is that Sebastian was tied to a column rather than a tree while the archers were aiming at him. The art historian Ziermann pointed out that it could be a deliberate pictorial program ; then this column would - as well as the slender pillars in the wing image of Anthony - the pillars Jachin and Boaz in the Jerusalem temple indicate; the pillar behind Sebastian would refer to Jachin as a symbol of the tree of life , while the pillar behind Antonius would be seen as a tree of knowledge and thus a sign of wisdom and would point to Boaz.
The choice of Antonius for the right wing was obvious, since he is the patron saint of the order and at the same time the patron saint of the sick treated in Isenheim. It too stands on a base designed in grisaille; in his right hand he holds the staff with the tau cross , his usual attribute. In the traditional iconography of the late Gothic, he is still depicted as a bearded old man, wearing a monk's habit, cloak and cap, very different from the figure of Sebastian, who, with his elegant proportions and the way the bare body is depicted, already reveals the painting style of the early modern times , which can also be taken from Grünewald's preliminary studies, which are kept in Dresden and Berlin.
A small, female devil can be seen in the upper right of the Antoniustafel, who smashed the slugs in order to get to Antonius. It is an allusion to the temptations of Antony and a motif that is taken up again in the third painting. Antony himself remains unaffected by the events behind him; as a worthy patriarch with a well-groomed white beard, he looked into the distance.
The crucifixion scene was a frequent pictorial topos of medieval devotional pictures. Matthias Grünewald's way of depiction differs from that of his predecessors and contemporaries in that never before has the events on Golgotha been portrayed in such a painful and shocking manner as an event of distress and torment. The oversized figure of the dead Christ on the cross dominates this panel with the group of Mary, the apostle John and Mary Magdalene to the left of the cross and John the Baptist on the right, all standing in front of a gloomy landscape under a dark sky.
The cross consists of a thick vertical trunk firmly wedged in the ground, which is notched at the top so that the crossbeam with the nailed Christ could be pulled up, hung and fastened with a wedge; this corresponds to the type of crucifixion customary in Jerusalem at that time . The crossbar of the cross is slightly bent downwards. The scene ignores the joint between the two halves of the picture; the cross is deliberately not in the center of the picture so as not to be cut up by the joint.
Representation of Jesus Christ
Cramped with pain, Christ's hands open toward heaven; the unusually large nail that attaches the feet to the cross tears the flesh of the instep; Blood drips from the toes and bottom of the foot onto the cross.
The head of Christ is crowned by an unusually large crown of thorns and is covered in blood and wounds. The lips have turned blue; Tongue and teeth are visible. There are spikes in the upper body and arms as an indication of the flagellation suffered. The body shows purulent sores. The whole body is painted in a green-yellowish tint. The blood flowing down, the crown of thorns, and the torn loincloth mark the humiliation and utter destruction of Christ's human nature. The cruel, strangely realistic depiction of the suffering was a deliberate visual program. It should call for compassio , for pity.
While it was previously assumed that the painter wanted to reconstruct the consequences of the flagellation and crucifixion in this picture as precisely as possible, new studies have argued that this type of representation is only supposed realism because the picture contains too many deviations from the biblical accounts and also show logical contradictions. The artistic means used by the painter would instead draw the viewer's attention in a different direction, namely the depiction of the crucified with all the symptoms of ergot poisoning (ergotism), as described in contemporary sources and known to the painter. In this way, the patients of the Isenheim hospital suffering from this disease (but also the doctors, nurses and visitors there) should be shown that Christ had to endure similar sufferings. For the painter Mathis, the lively, spiritual reference to the presence of the viewer at the time was much more important than the historical-critical accuracy of the representation. This is mainly demonstrated by the following details:
• The upward stretched wrists of Christ with the spasmodic fingers indicate ergotism.
• The colors of the body, which differ significantly from the incarnate of the other figures, also correspond to contemporary descriptions of the illness.
• The numerous small, red-rimmed wounds on the body do not bleed (except on the crown of thorns and on the legs); they indicate the feeling of the inner fire of this disease, which is felt as "Holy Fire" ("Antonius Fire").
• The blue lips and the drawn-in chest are the consequences of the shortness of breath associated with ergotism and the subsequent death from suffocation.
• A depiction of the historical events becomes an a-historical crucifixion especially for the viewer in the Isenheimer Spital.
These impressions are reinforced by the fact that the crucifixion table can be seen on the "weekday" side of the altar. It was obviously important to the clients to show this image to the prayers as daily as possible in order to create a lively reference to the present. Every patient newly admitted to the hospital should perceive that he suffers in the same way as the Christ depicted in front of him. In this way the illness depicted in the picture could become the highest form of following Christ .
John the Baptist
The only person on the right-hand side of the panel is John the Baptist, in front of him the lamb (his attribute), whose blood flows into a golden chalice and who is holding a cross- staff. He is shown here as the forerunner of Christ: As the last prophet , he holds the book of the Old Testament in his left hand and points with the long index finger of his right hand to the crucified Christ in order to proclaim the New Testament through the inscription behind him with the words:
“Illum oportet crescere me autem minui”
(“That one has to grow, but I have to get smaller” - Jn 3:30).
This indicates that Christ's work of redemption is accomplished. The announcements of John the Baptist have come true.
Here, too, the painter deviates from the biblical story. Because John had already been executed a few years before Christ's death on the cross. His words refer to Christ as the Messiah promised by the prophets ; at the same time, with the conspicuous gesture of his right hand, he points to a disfigured and helpless dying person. This contradiction is consciously emphasized by the painter with his own means and made a topic for the sick in the Isenheim hospital. In this context, the art historian Ewald Maria Vetter referred to a sermon text by Augustine, which explains the day of Christ's birth as the darkest day of the year, after which the light "grows" again. On the other hand, the day of the birth of John the Baptist is June 24th, a point in time when the light of day decreases again.
The passed out Maria
As usual for depictions of the crucifixion scene, Mary stands on the left under the cross. She seems to faint into the arms of the apostle John, who catches her with his right arm. The pale face of Maria, her half-closed eyelids and the special nature of the clasped hands show that she accepts the mother's great suffering for her son.
Investigations on the panel have shown that Matthias Grünewald has reworked and painted over the figure of Maria several times. Originally she was standing upright, gazing at her dead son, and her hands folded. Grünewald changed this position and thus found a visual language that also appears in Rogier van der Weyden . In his painting of the Descent from the Cross , the arm position of the unconscious Mary, who collapsed, takes up the arm position of her dead son. Maria's eyes are almost closed. However, research has shown that even when she slumped, she originally looked at her dead son. The painted eyeballs with iris and pupils can still be seen under the eyelids.
The Apostle John
The face and posture of the apostle John testify to his pain. He is the only one who does not look in the direction of the cross, but rather looks mournfully at Our Lady. This figure was also painted over and corrected by Grünewald in the course of the making of the altar. The corrections were necessary because the revision of the figure of Mary gave John the new function of supporting the Mother of God.
Mary Magdalene, with her hair loosened and in a very worldly garment, is depicted with her typical attribute, the ointment vessel; on it the number 1515 is said to have been recognizable as an indication of the time of origin of the altar panel. She has turned her painfully contorted face to the Crucified One and raised her hands upwards with her fingers clasped in pleading prayer; she seems to despair of her suffering.
When it comes to depicting the people on the left side of the cross, Grünewald also deviates from the widespread way of painting with numerous accompanying persons; He brings Mary and John as well as Mary Magdalene much closer to the viewer. While Mary expresses silent grief, John and Mary Magdalene clearly show their despair. In this way, these three accompanying persons under the cross also become figures of identification, in this case for the relatives of the sick in the Isenheim hospital.
The painting on the predella of the first wall painting
The swinging predella (67 × 341 cm) remained open in the first and second wall paintings. In the history of art , the subject is usually referred to as "Lamentation of Christ" (and not as "Entombment") because a figure appears here that is not mentioned in any Gospel text on the Entombment of Christ: The apostle John bows over the dead Christ and lifts him up Upper body of the corpse laid on a white sheet. Next to it, in deep mourning, Mary crouches, veiled and with her hands clasped, Mary Magdalene behind her, who - as under the cross - is wringing her hands in despair. The same three figures are shown here as under the cross in the scene above.
The crown of thorns lies on the ground at the feet of Christ. In the background you can see a river landscape with a mountain. The open grave and the boulder correspond to the representation on the picture panel with the resurrection. The horizontal lines of the tomb and the landscape background counteract the strong emphasis on the vertical in the main picture.
Because a less careful painting style is said to have been used in this “Lamentation of Christ”, the painting is regarded by some scholars as not by Grünewald's hand. "In fact, it is not just the imaginative construction, but also the black contours to highlight certain volumes that are typical of the work of the master, who oversaw the execution of this polyptych by several artists."
The paintings of the second mural
Left panel: Annunciation
The archangel Gabriel drives like a storm into the chapel-like room and scares Mary while reading. She backs away and lets her book slide onto the chest in front of her. The movement of Mary continues as it were in the pushed back red curtain behind her. The coming of the Holy Spirit is illustrated by the dove floating down with the halo and by the gust of wind that can be felt in the room. The heat from the halo is obviously making the back curtain rod glow red. Contrary to the usual painting tradition, the angel approaches Mary from the right; Grünewald probably wanted to express that the angel of the Annunciation was sent down by God, whose image the painter lights up in the center of the middle panel.
The strongly moving shapes and bright, bright colors of the angel's robes contrast with the broad, dark dress of Mary. The painter also used the “speaking hands” of both figures here. In order to show the correspondence between the texts of the Old Testament and the events of the New Testament, the cross-ribbed vault above Mary depicts the prophet Isaiah with his text passage, in grisaille technique, presumably to make the time difference clear. The passage from the Old Testament (Isaiah 7: 14–15 EU ) reads:
“Behold, a virgin will conceive and bear a son, and will name his name Emanuel. He will eat butter and honey so that he will know how to distinguish good and bad. "
Isaiah stands on a root whose runners extend into the vault of the nave of the church in which this scene is depicted; it symbolizes the so-called root Jesse .
For the Annunciation scene, Grünewald chose a location seldom depicted in art history for the Annunciation. Maria does not kneel in a private room like Rogier van der Weyden's , for example , who in 1460 had chosen the bedchamber as the scene for his altar, but in a chapel. This refers to a tradition from the Apocrypha that is taken up and expanded in the Legenda aurea . Mary then spent her childhood in the temple reading the scriptures about the coming of the Messiah.
The architectural parts and the tile pattern in the foreground only appear in the correct perspective if the viewer chooses his position so that he stands in the middle in front of the reredos, i.e. looks from the right at the left panel. The room in late Gothic forms could be modeled on a chapel in the St. Martin Basilica (Bingen) ; it is located on the other bank of the Nahe , opposite the church of the former Benedictine monastery Rupertsberg shown on the Christmas table (see under "Christmas picture").
The scene of the Annunciation has been represented in the fine arts since the 5th century. It was a popular motif in altar art of the 14th and 15th centuries, often with the Madonna lily as a symbol of virginity . Grünewald dispensed with this symbolism and created a painting with a dynamic that was previously seldom shown.
Middle panel: Angel concert and the Incarnation of Christ
The left half of the middle panel is clearly separated from the right by a narrow dark green velvet curtain (in the background). In this way the painter conceals the division of the central panel into two scenes, while in the foreground he creates a connection with the floor covering, bath tub, chamber pot and cradle.
The concert of the angels is aimed at Mary with the newborn Jesus. It takes place in a late Gothic case with two gate-like keel arch openings, the columns and ribs of which are richly decorated with naturalistic tendrils and flowers. On the supporting, gilded pillars stand in silver robes Moses (with the tablets of the law ), Ezekiel (in priestly robes ), Jeremiah (with prophet's cloak and penitent belt), Isaiah (a little deeper in a niche with the scroll of the prophet) and Daniel (as a young seer ). The music-making angels are divided into a front, illuminated and colorfully dressed group and the darkly robed fallen angels in the background. The big angel kneeling in front of the case plays the bass viola ; It is noticeable how unnaturally he holds the bow , perhaps an indication that it is not earthly, but heavenly music. Some angels have a halo that indicates they are heavenly beings. The leader of the fallen angels, presumably Lucifer , has greenish shimmering wings and a peacock-like headdress. To fight these evil spirits, God sends his son to earth.
Under the right opening of the case, the Virgin Mary appears , still awaiting the birth, surrounded by a red and gold halo in the same bright colors as with the risen One. She wears a red crown of flames on her head, for which there is no explanation. Two angels soar above her with the crown and scepter insignia intended for Mary. The blessing scene with Melchizedek (Gen 14:18) is shown in the arched area of this opening . On the step at Mary's feet stands an artfully crafted glass carafe with anointing oil, interpreted by Birgitta of Sweden as a sign of Mary's virginity. The glass carafe is said to be the earliest illustration of a weather glass with a storm indicator in the spout as an announcement of the stormy new times.
This scene on the left half - from the dark leader of the evil spirits to the Virgin Mary in a halo - is spanned by a heavy curtain that begins as a wall hanging on the left and expires invisibly on the right, but is optically continued by a tympanum above the Virgin Mary. All of these remain attempts at interpretation; a generally convincing explanation of the meaning of the Angel Concerto has not yet been found. "There is nowhere a similar picture in previous German painting, it falls completely outside the framework of German iconography," writes Ziermann.
The incarnation of Christ is shown on the right half of the middle panel ("Christmas picture "). The Mother of God sits in a walled garden with a locked gate ( Hortus conclusus ). She holds her child in her left arm and supports her head with her right hand. She smiles at her child who is playing with a coral necklace. In the foreground are the hot tub, chamber pot (with Hebrew characters) and cradle.
In this picture there are symbolic representations: the cross on the gate points to the crucifixion of Jesus, the fig tree in front of it to Mary and the myrtle bush (as a sign of the bride and groom) to Joseph . According to the church fathers, red roses are a symbol of martyrdom; the seven flowers and buds could indicate the seven sorrows of Mary . The Y-sign (a trunk with two identical branches) between the pearls of the necklace could be the symbol of the first parents Adam and Eve ; it points to Christ as the new Adam and Mary as the new Eve.
Maria's precious clothes stand in contrast to the torn diaper in which she holds her child. This is intended to indicate the death on the cross; for the crucified one wears a comparable torn loincloth on the crucifixion table.
Behind the wall in the middle distance you can see a river and on the other bank a church in Romanesque-early Gothic style with monastery buildings. A comparison with copper engravings by Daniel Meisner and Matthäus Merian shows that the Rupertsberg Monastery on the Nahe served as a model here, namely the Benedictine monastery founded by Hildegard von Bingen in 1150 in today's Bingerbrück , which had to give way to the construction of the Nahe Valley Railway in 1857. This assumption is also supported by the fact that Grünewald stayed in Bingen around 1510 and worked as a “water art maker” at Klopp Castle there .
On the hill above the monastery, angels proclaim the good news to the shepherds ; here is the only indication of the painter that it is not only a depiction of the Mother of God with child, but (also) a Christmas picture.
Behind the hill, steep mountains tower up, which - separated by dark clouds - merge into the ever-brighter heavenly sphere , in which God the Father appears with a scepter and globe ( Sphaira ) in a halo amid a host of angels. The light emanating from here extends in a conical shape from the two front angels playing music in the left half of the picture to the monastery church on the right edge of the right half of the picture.
A typical “Christmas picture” lacks night, cave or stable, Joseph and the manger, as well as ox and donkey. In order to indicate the birth in the stable, the painter has placed the crib and bath tub in the Madonna Garden. Above the head of the baby Jesus you can see how a herd of pigs rushes from a mountain ridge to the valley (based on Mark 5: 1–20).
Various explanations are offered for the juxtaposition of the two halves of the picture on the middle panel: The angels with their queen pay homage to the newborn. Or: The angels surround the pregnant Mary in anticipation of the birth, which is then shown on the right half. Or: Both halves of the picture contain correspondences from the Old and New Testaments: the angels play music in the temple of Solomon and from there greet the Savior , while Mary and the child sit in the hortus conclusus ; the curtain in between is "the symbolic veil of the Temple of Jerusalem, a barrier between God and man that falls at the arrival of the New Law".
Right panel: Resurrection of Christ
Above the open sarcophagus , Christ, who has risen from the grave, floats to heaven, surrounded by a light-colored circle of light, which is also a halo ; the inner sun-yellow center has dematerialized the face and the upper body of the risen One and dyed the cloth covering him on the shoulders yellow. The golden-yellow light core gradually changes into red light, which radiates onto the upper parts of the shroud. On the outside, the halo is enclosed by a blue circle of light, the reflection of which extends over the lower parts of the sheet. These three colored circles of light were interpreted in medieval theology as a symbol of the divine trinity . The white light emanating from the unearthly apparition falls on the sarcophagus and blinds the guards. "Never before and after has the resurrection been portrayed as a miracle of light and seldom with such triumphant violence."
Christ, who pulls the shroud behind him like a gust of wind, shows his wounds with raised hands; all five wounds are framed with a small halo. The whole body of Christ is transfigured. The chosen colors and shapes underline the counterpoint in terms of content to the crucifixion table. The painter knew how to fuse the mysteries of Transfiguration , Resurrection and Ascension .
This panel also combines the realistic representation of Grünewald (with sarcophagus, guardians, rocks and starry sky) with mystical, unearthly motifs. In the foreground are the massive bodies of two guards, both in medieval armor, as if struck by lightning. The huge boulder in the background seems to be shaking. He endangers two other guards, whose falling movements are extremely artfully captured in the picture; one falls to the ground, the other seems to collapse under the boulder.
Angel concert : The prophets Ezekiel (left) and Jeremiah (right)
The altar shrine of the third mural
For stylistic reasons, it is now assumed that Niklaus von Hagenau (also Niclas Hagnower or Niclaus von Haguenau or Master Niclaus Bildhawer) created the altarpiece and the figure of Christ in the predella in his workshop in Strasbourg in the years after 1500. Only the then preceptor Guido Guersi can actually be considered as client and founder.
Altar shrine with Antony, flanked by Augustine and Hieronymus
Antonius (around 251–356), is referred to as the father of monasticism; he lived as a hermit in the desert mountains between the Nile and the Red Sea and is the patron saint of the Antonites. In the center of the carved altar shrine, Antonius sits on a throne chair, holding a cross staff and a book (rule of the order).
A piglet with a bell can be seen at Antonius' feet. The Antonites were entitled to graze their pigs (with bells) on common land. Two men kneel before the saint, who can be interpreted, one as a converse with a rooster as a sign of his repentance and the other as a converted Moor with a turban, who wears a piglet and points to Antony.
In contrast to the three-dimensional representation of Antonius, the two church fathers Augustine and Jerome are carved as reliefs. Augustine (354–430) in the bishop's robe has the founder figure of Guido Gersi at his feet. Both look to Antonius in the central shrine. Both the donor figure and the two men at the feet of Antonius are depicted smaller according to their importance and do not wear the golden festive robes of the saints. Hieronymus (347-420) is shown with the Bible (the Vulgate translated by him ), the cardinal's hat and a lion; According to legend, the lion became his constant companion after he had pulled a thorn from his paw. The life story of the hermit Paul von Thebes, who is shown in the left panel, comes from Hieronymus.
Predella: Christ and the twelve apostles
The opened predella with the carved groups of figures of Christ and the twelve apostles also belongs to the third mural with the altar shrine. In the middle is the half-figure of Christ, who is represented with a gesture of blessing and a globe as the savior of the world; it comes - like the carved altar by Niklaus von Hagenau.
In addition, the apostles (partly with their attributes) are lined up in groups of three, which show "differences in style". To the right of Christ: Peter (closed book), Andreas (X-shaped cross) and Johannes (chalice with poisonous snake), the so-called "chalice group"; Matthew (open large book), James the Younger (without attribute) and Matthias or Paulus (without attribute), the so-called "book group". To the left of Christ: James the Elder (pilgrim hat and shell), Simon Zelotes (without attribute) and Thomas (closed book), the so-called "shell group"; Judas Thaddäus (opened little book), Philip (oversized nose) and Bartholomäus with a braided beard (the knife as an attribute was lost), the so-called "little book group".
On the back of the middle apostle of the “shell group”, namely on the back of Simon Zelotes (“the zealot”), the words “des beychel” are painted. After long arguments about their importance, it has been assumed since 1997, with good reason, that it is the signature of the little-known wood sculptor Desiderius Beychel, who probably came from Colmar or Breisach, and that he is the master of the figures of the apostles. Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe still takes another view, the reasoning has since been refuted.
It is not known whether Desiderius Beychel had his own workshop or worked as an employee at Niklaus von Hagenau. He should u. a. around 1490 created the choir stalls of the former Cistercian monastery in Breisach.
The carving in the three gable panels
In the middle gable field , two thin fig tree trunks carry the foliage with branches that run out in symmetrical, tracery-like shapes . In the carved foliage sit the four winged beings bull, man, lion and above the eagle, which Jerome was the first to interpret as symbols of the four evangelists , but which Irenaeus of Lyon († around 202) had already assigned to the four books of the gospels with reference to the tetramorphic vision of the prophet Ezekiel (Ez 1,1-14) and its New Testament analogy in the apocalyptic heavenly vision of the evangelist John (Rev 4,1-11). What is striking about the representation in the gable is that these four symbolic figures are not assigned to a central image or symbol of Christ, as was common in the Middle Ages, but are grouped around an angel with a banner.
Before the partial destruction in 1793/94, the gable above Bishop Augustine consisted of three vine plants with grapes, the trunks of which were led upwards from the shrine floor directly next to the frame, comparable to the two fig trunks in the central gable. Originally seven birds sat distributed among the vines.
In the gable above Cardinal Hieronymus, a grapevine and an oak grow on the edge, which spread their fruits and leaves in the gable. In the upper area you can also see a branch of hops with a raven bird on it and three other birds on each side.
The paintings on the two wings of the third mural
Visit of Antony to Paul of Thebes
The (originally) left panel depicts the scene handed down by Hieronymus ( vita Pauli from 377) and further widespread through the Legenda aurea of Jacobus de Voragine (around 1228–1298) of Antony visiting the hermit Paul in the desert and with him leads spiritual conversations.
Paul of Thebes (228–341) is considered the first Christian hermit; he lived in the desert near Thebes until he was 113 years old . In order to depict his life far away from the world, Grünewald painted him as an old man with weather-tanned skin, disheveled hair, a shaggy beard and long fingernails; his robe is made of woven palm leaves. Paul tells his guest Antonius about the miracle that a raven brings him bread every day in the desert and thus keeps him alive. As can be seen, this time the raven even brought a second serving for Antonius. And now Antony (as the younger of the two) and Paul, whom he admires, argue with lively gestures about who is entitled to the honor of breaking bread - as at the Lord's Supper with Jesus. In preparation for this scene, Grünewald had made preliminary studies that have been preserved on the back of the body studies for the figure of Sebastian for the Sebastian panel.
Antony is depicted differently from Paul in almost every detail: he wears the contemporary clothes of an Antonite abbot with a wide cloak that almost completely envelops his body. He has raised his right hand in a reserved speaking gesture and grasps the Antoniter cane with his left. A red cap frames his face with the scrutinizing but also awe of Paul; his well-groomed white beard spreads over his coat and ends in two points. It is believed that this head is said to be a portrait of the founder Guido Guersi, whose coat of arms can be seen on the lower left of the rock. While Paul uses a seat made of old beams, Antony has taken a seat made of twigs and twigs. The animal world is represented - apart from the raven - with the grazing deer in the middle distance and the doe resting between the two saints.
Grünewald relocated the landscape that characterizes the picture, instead of in a desert region, in a river landscape typical of Alsace with mountains in the background, which, based on the Legenda aurea , has been assumed to depict the various stages of Antonius' life: The transition from the fertile land in the background through the forest area with lichen-covered trees and then into the desert with a palm tree in the desert sand. However, the lifelike painted medicinal plants in the foreground, which have healing properties in the treatment of ergot poisoning, do not fit in with this (from left): ribwort, verbena and broad plantain (before Antonius) as well as bulbous buttercups, quickgrass, glandular root, spelled, wound clover, dead nettle, poppy , Cross gentian, speedwell, swallowwort and cypergrass (before Paul). Was the painter trying to imply that Antony and Paul are both spiritual teachers and doctors for a sick world?
Temptation of the hermit Antonius
On the (originally) right panel, Grünewald depicted the temptations that Antonius experienced in his hermitage. The image content largely follows the Vita Antonii (around 360) of the church father Athanasius the Great , the content of which was also disseminated in the Middle Ages through the Legenda aurea . In contrast to the calm on the left panel, the attack of the demons as the temptation of Antonius on the right wing is extremely moved and frightening.
Antonius is lying on the ground, his upper body slightly straightened and trying to protect himself from the attacks of the demons. These monsters are fantastic hybrid creatures of different animal species, but also mixed forms of animal and human, who harass and hit him. The horned creature with the mutilated hands on the left edge of the picture, which Antonius wants to tear the cloak from, is striking; but also the turtle-like monster in the foreground, which bites his right hand, in which he is holding the cane and the rosary. In this way it was supposed to be shown that the demons were after the attributes of the saint by which he was marked as a helper in diseases. The human-like creature with webbed feet, lying in front on the left, seems to seek protection from the demons behind Antonius; It has raised its left arm-trunk in a complaint and with its right it is holding a torn leather pouch with yellowed writing; his body bears symptoms of the plague and the Antonius fire (bloated stomach, plague bumps and burned left arm). Like this human-like creature, some of the attacking monsters are also afflicted by these symptoms of illness, so that the assumption is reasonable that the painter wanted to show the patients in the Isenheim hospital these demons as the carriers of the disease. They attack Antonius as the disease attacked the men and women in the Isenheim hospital.
No wounds can be seen on Antony's face and hands. Obviously, God the Father appeared in time in shining light. Above the hermit's burning wooden hut in the middle distance and the mountainous landscape in the background, you can see how the armed angels have taken up the fight against the demons. Because Antonius had to wait a long time for this rescue, he exclaimed in his need: “Where have you been, good Jesus, where have you been? Why didn't you come (earlier) to end my torments? ”This is how it is written (in Latin) on the leaf on the tree stump in the foreground on the right.
The altar had its greatest after-effect in the first half of the 20th century. In 1908 Max Jakob Friedländer published his illustrated introduction The Isenheim Altar , which, along with many others, gave the publisher Reinhard Piper the impetus to deal with the work of art. During the First World War , the altar was brought to Munich for “security reasons” in the winter of 1917, where it was shown from November 24, 1918 to September 27, 1919 in the Alte Pinakothek. The exhibition was an overwhelming success; the altar became a symbol of the German war experience and thousands saw it in a kind of “pilgrimage”, as Wilhelm Hausenstein observed: “People can never be so pilgrim to a picture; unless it was in the middle of the Middle Ages. "
Thomas Mann saw the Isenheim Altarpiece on December 22nd, 1918 in the Alte Pinakothek and noted in his diary: “Strong impression. The color festivity of the Madonna scene goes a little too far for me in sweet shimmering. The grotesque misery of the crucifixion acts as a powerful contrast. Flaubert reminiscence before the Antonius scene. On the whole, the pictures belong to the strongest thing that ever came before my eyes. "At that time, public opinion and art history interpreted the altar as a national work of art that" concerns the German people or beings most "and also influenced artists of Expressionism , especially Max Beckmann , Paul Klee , August Macke . and Marianne von Werefkin . His transport back to Colmar in September 1919 became a visual expression of the losses caused by the Treaty of Versailles .
By a light pressure sheet with 49 images (s / w) from the studio HanfstaengI that of Oskar Hagen and Reinhard Piper had been selected, the altar was widely the formation middle known; Reproductions of the crucifixion scene hung over the desks of many theologians - as diverse as Paul Tillich , for whom it is “one of the rare pictures”, “that breathe the Protestant spirit and are great works of art at the same time”, and Karl Barth , the “John the Baptist on Grünewalds Crucifixion image with his hand pointing in an almost impossible way “made the epitome of the Bible and all theology related to Christ.
Inspired by the Isenheim Altarpiece, Paul Hindemith wrote a symphony and an opera in 1935 with the title Mathis der Maler . The symphony consists of three preludes and interludes taken from the opera. The first movement of the symphony refers to the “Angel Concerto” of the Isenheim Altarpiece, the slow movement to the Entombment and the finale to the temptation of St. Anthony.
A detailed copy was made over many years by the Altmannshausen pastor Karl Sohm. This has been in the Bamberg district church of St. Kunigund since the 1950s .
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- Francois-René Martin / Michel Menu / Sylvie Ramond: Grünewald , DuMont, Cologne 2013.
- Reiner Marquard : Mathias Grünewald and the Reformation . Frank & Timme, Berlin 2009.
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- Wilhelm Fraenger : Matthias Grünewald . Special edition, CH Beck, Munich 1986.
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- Heinrich Alfred Schmid : The paintings and drawings by Matthias Grünewald , Verlag W. Heinrich, Strasbourg 1911.
Aftermath in the 20th century
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- Max Jakob Friedländer : Grünewald's Isenheimer Altar , Beckmann, Munich 1908, (2nd expanded edition 1919)
- Wilhelm Hausenstein : The Isenheim Altarpiece. Hirth, Munich 1919, .
- Matthias Grünewald: Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece in forty-nine shots . With an introduction by Oskar Hagen , Piper, Munich 1919 (2nd edition 1924).
- Oskar Hagen: Matthias Grünewald , Piper, Munich 1923, .
- Wilhelm Niemeyer: Matthias Grünewald - the painter of the Isenheim Altarpiece , Berlin 1921, .
- Reiner Marquard: Karl Barth and the Isenheimer Altar , Calwer, Stuttgart 1995 (work on theology, volume 80).
- Mathias Gruenewald and the Isenheim Altarpiece. (WDR, 1967) - Director: Georgia van der Rohe (daughter of Mies van der Rohe ).
- Architecture, Isenheim Altarpiece, information
- The Isenheim Altarpiece
- Isenheim Altarpiece - pictures and description
- Web App Isenheim Altarpiece with slideshow, description (NL) and downloads
- Georg Scheja: The Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald (Mathis Gothart Nithart) , Cologne 1969, p. 8ff.
- Elisabeth Clementz: The Isenheimer Antoniter: Continuity from the Late Middle Ages to the Early Modern Age? In: Michael Matheus (Ed.): Functional and structural change in late medieval hospitals in a European comparison . Historical regional studies, Volume 56, Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2005.
- Adalbert mixed Levski: Broad history of Antoniterordens until the end of the 15th century (= Bonner contributions to church history 8) Cologne / Vienna 1976th
- Reiner Marquard: Mathias Grünewald and the Reformation , Berlin 2009, p. 38f.
- Wilhelm Fraenger: Matthias Grünewald , Dresden 1983, pp. 115ff., 149ff. and 300ff.
- Reiner Marquard: Mathias Grünewald and the Reformation , Berlin 2009, p. 21ff.
- Reiner Marquard: Mathias Grünewald and the Reformation , Berlin 2009, p. 39 with note 106
- Heinz Ladendon: Grünewald, Matthias , in: Neue Deutsche Biographie 7 (1966), pp. 191ff.
- Tessa Friederike Rosebrook: Kurt Martin and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg. Museum and exhibition policy in the "Third Reich" and in the immediate post-war period, Berlin 2012, pp. 79f.
- Reiner Marquard, Mathias Grünewald and the Reformation, Berlin 2009, pp. 101f.
- Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe / Magali Haas: The Isenheim Altarpiece - The Masterpiece in the Musée Unterlinden , Paris 2016, p. 50f.
- Reiner Marquard: Mathias Grünewald and the Reformation , Berlin 2009, p. 97ff.
- Claude Lapaire: review in Journal of Swiss Archeology and Art History, 1989, vol 46, p 321f..
- The Liberation of Colors , Basler Zeitung, July 29, 2011
- The extension of the Musée Unterlinden by Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron
- The famous Isenheim Altarpiece is being completely restored. This raises questions about its future effect , NZZ, October 20, 2018
- Francois-René Martin / Michel Menu / Sylvie Ramond: Grünewald , Cologne 2013, p. 101ff. with reconstruction drawings and p. 104f.
- Emil Spath: Isenheim, Der Kern des Altar-Retabel - Die Antoniterkirche , Freiburg 1997, Volume I, p. 467ff.
- Heinrich Alfred Schmid: The paintings and drawings by Matthias Grünewald , Strasbourg 1911
- Heinrich Geissler: The altar - data and facts at a glance . In: Max Seidel: Mathis Gothart Nithart Grünewald - The Isenheim Altarpiece . Stuttgart 1973, p. 45
- Reiner Marquard: Mathias Grünewald and the Reformation , Berlin 2009, p. 102ff. with further evidence.
- Lexicon of Christian Iconography (LCI), Volume 8, Freiburg 2004, Sp. 318ff.
- Lexicon of Christian Iconography (LCI), Volume 5, Freiburg 2004, Sp. 206ff.
- Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe / Magali Haas: The Isenheim Altarpiece - The Masterpiece in the Musée Unterlinden , Paris 2016, p. 67ff.
- Christof Diedrichs: What does Jesus Christ die of? And why? - The crucifixion panel of the Isenheim Altarpiece by Mathis Gothart Nithart, called Grünewald , Norderstedt 2017, ISBN 978-3-7448-6877-8 , p. 90ff. With further references
- Lexicon of Christian Iconography (LCI), Volume 7, Freiburg 2004, Sp. 164ff.
- Winfried Nerdinger: Perspektiven der Kunst . Oldenbourg 2006, ISBN 3-486-87517-5 , p. 117.
- Ewald M. Vetter: Grünewald - The altars in Frankfurt, Isenheim, Aschaffenburg and their iconography , Weißenhorn 2009
- Lexicon of Christian Iconography (LCI), Volume 7, Freiburg 2004, Sp. 108ff.
- Lexicon of Christian Iconography (LCI), Volume 7, Freiburg 2004, Sp. 516ff.
- Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe / Magali Haas: The Isenheim Altarpiece - The Masterpiece in the Musée Unterlinden , Paris 2016, p. 61.
- Christof Diedrichs: What does Jesus Christ die of? And why? - The crucifixion panel of the Isenheim Altarpiece by Mathis Gothart Nithart, called Grünewald , Norderstedt 2017, p. 90ff.
- Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe / Magali Haas: The Isenheim Altarpiece - The Masterpiece in the Musée Unterlinden , Paris 2016, p. 66.
- Francois-René Martin / Michel Menu / Sylvie Ramond: Grünewald , Cologne 2013, pp. 128f.
- Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe / Magali Haas: The Isenheim Altarpiece - The Masterpiece in the Musée Unterlinden , Paris 2016, p. 78
- Francois-René Martin / Michel Menu / Sylvie Ramond: Grünewald , Cologne 2013, p. 144
- Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe / Magali Haas: The Isenheim Altarpiece - The Masterpiece in the Musée Unterlinden , Paris 2016, p. 80ff.
- Horst Ziermann / Erika Beissel: Matthias Grünewald , Munich 2001, p. 122
- Emil Spath: Secret of Love - The Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald , Freiburg 1991, pp. 54, 58
- Meisner / Kieser: Thesaurus philopoliticus or Politisches Schatzkästlein , facsimile reprint with introduction and register by Klaus Eymann, Verlag Walter Uhl, Unterschneidheim 1972, 2nd book, 2nd part, no.43
- Matthäus Merian: Topographia Archiepiscopatum Moguntinensis, Trevirensis et Coloniensis , edited by Lucas Heinrich Wüthrich, Kassel / Basel 1967, page 15ff.
- Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe / Magali Haas: The Isenheim Altarpiece - The Masterpiece in the Musée Unterlinden , Paris 2016, p. 25
- Wilhelm Fraenger: Matthias Grünewald , Munich 1983, p. 40.
- Georg Scheja: The Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald , Cologne 1969, p. 34ff.
- Francois-René Martin / Michel Menu / Sylvie Ramond: Grünewald , Cologne 2013, p. 152
- Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe / Magali Haas: The Isenheim Altarpiece - The Masterpiece in the Musée Unterlinden , Paris 2016, p. 86.
- Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe / Magali Haas: The Isenheim Altarpiece - The Masterpiece in the Musée Unterlinden , Paris 2016, p. 30ff. and 92ff.
- Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe / Philippe Lorentz (eds.): Grünewald and the Isenheim Altarpiece - A masterpiece in view . Museum Unterlinden, Colmar 2007, p. 54ff. and 61f.
- Lexicon of Christian Iconography (LCI), Volume 5, Freiburg 2004, Sp. 205ff.
- Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe / Magali Haas: The Isenheim Altarpiece - The Masterpiece in the Musée Unterlinden , Paris 2016, p. 92ff.
- Georg Scheja: The Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald (Mathis Gothart Nithart) , Cologne 1969, p. 26f.
- Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe / Magali Haas: The Isenheim Altarpiece - The Masterpiece in the Musée Unterlinden , Paris 2016, pp. 95f.
- Lexicon of Christian Iconography (LCI), Volume 5, Freiburg 2004, Sp. 277ff.
- Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe / Philippe Lorentz (eds.): Grünewald and the Isenheim Altarpiece - A masterpiece in view . Museum Unterlinden, Colmar 2007, p. 58
- Lexicon of Christian Iconography (LCI), Volume 6, Freiburg 2004, Sp. 519ff.
- Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe / Magali Haas: The Isenheim Altarpiece - The Masterpiece in the Musée Unterlinden , Paris 2016, p. 32
- Emil Spath: The third master of the Isenheim altar-retable - Desiderius Beychel . In: Cahiers Alsaciens d'Archéologie, d'Art et d'Histoire 1995, Volume 38, pp. 207-220, .
- Emil Spath: Isenheim, Der Kern des Altar-Retabel - Die Antoniterkirche , Edition Symbolum, Freiburg 1997, Volume I, p. 71ff. and 453ff. with illustrations in Volume II A3 – A6, A78 – A79 and A83.
- https://www.joerg-sieger.de/isenheim/texte/i_06.php .
- Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe / Magali Haas: The Isenheim Altarpiece - The Masterpiece in the Musée Unterlinden , Paris 2016, p. 97
- Stefan Schmidt: The choir stalls of Marienau and the history of the abbey . Wyhl am Kaiserstuhl 2006, p. 33ff.
- Heinz Ladendon: "Grünewald, Matthias", in: Neue Deutsche Biographie 7 (1966), p. 191ff.
- Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe / Magali Haas: The Isenheim Altarpiece - The Masterpiece in the Musée Unterlinden , Paris 2016, pp. 95f.
- Jacobus de Voragine: Legenda aurea - Goldene Legende , ed. Bruno W. Häuptli, Freiburg 2014, p. 333ff.
- Lexicon of Christian Iconography (LCI), Volume 8, Freiburg 2004, Sp. 149ff.
- Georg Scheja: The Isenheimer Altar of Matthias Grünewald (Mathis Gothart Nithart) , Cologne 1969, p. 30f.
- Francois-René Martin / Michel Menu / Sylvie Ramond: Grünewald , Cologne 2013, p. 117ff. and 249ff. with illustrations, also for the following text.
- Emil Spath: Secret of Love - The Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald , Freiburg 1991, p. 127
- Jacobus de Voragine: Legenda aurea - Goldene Legende , ed. Bruno W. Häuptli, Freiburg 2014, p. 367ff.
- Francois-René Martin / Michel Menu / Sylvie Ramond: Grünewald , Cologne 2013, p. 110.
- Pantxika Béguerie-De Paepe / Magali Haas: The Isenheim Altarpiece - The Masterpiece in the Musée Unterlinden , Paris 2016, p. 102ff.
- Stieglitz: The Reproiduction of Agony. 1989, p. 132, note 32.
- Thomas Mann: Diaries 1918–1921. ed. v. Peter de Mendelssohn . Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2003, p. 113.
- Mathias Mayer: This work anticipates everything horrific , FAZ of July 9, 2016.
- Systematic Theology. Volume 3, p. 229; see. also Paul Tillich: On Art and Architecture. ed. v. John Dillenberger. Crossroad, New York 1989, pp. 99, 161: the greatest German picture ever painted.
- Aargau lecture from 1920, quoted from Eberhard Busch: Karl Barth's curriculum vitae . Kaiser, Munich 1986, p. 128.