Matthias Grünewald

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The so-called Erlangen self-portrait , long regarded as Grünewald's only authentic self-portrait, is increasingly seen by recent research as a study of John the Evangelist

Matthias Grünewald (* around 1480, † around 1530) was an important painter and graphic artist of the Renaissance . Research views on the name are divided. So once he is equated with Mathis Gothart-Nithart or Mathis Nithart-Gothart , another time seen as his contemporary. In the first case he should to 1475 / 1480 in Würzburg born on 31 August 1528 in Halle an der Saale have died; in the second one assumes his place of birth near Aschaffenburg and takes 1531/32 as the time of death.



Sandrart and the older tradition

Joachim von Sandrart, here in an engraving from 1675, is considered the first "Grünewald" biographer

The name Matthias Grünewald , which is common today, goes back to Joachim von Sandrart , who included him in his two-part art-historical main work Teutsche Academie der Edel Bau-, Bild- und Mahlerey-Künste , published in 1675 and 1679, with a brief biographical outline each . As is not unusual for baroque literature, and perhaps more to be attributed to typesetters and printers than Sandrart himself, the spelling of the artist's name, which already varies greatly in different parts of the text:

  • Matthias of Aschaffenburg
  • Green force
  • Grünwald
  • Matthaei from Aschaffenburg
  • Matthaeus Grünenwald from Aschaffenburg / Mahler
  • Matthaeus Grünewald / otherwise called Matthaeus von Aschaffenburg
  • Matthaei Grünwalt
  • Matthäus Grünwald from Aschaffenburg
  • M. Grünwald famous Mahler from Aschaffenburg

Even if Sandrart in the sense of Giorgio Vasari provided a rudimentary biography and description of the work of the historical "Grünewald" for the first time, he was not the first to call it by its supposed name. As early as 1573, the Strasbourg printer and publisher Bernhard Jobin spoke of a Mathis von Oschnaburg , between 1570 and 1586 the Basel collector Basilius Amerbach of a Mathis von Aschenburg and finally in 1620 the publisher Vincenz Steinmeyer in the preface to a woodcut collection of a Matthes von Aschaffenburgk .

If one goes back to the lifetime of "Grünewald", the historical documents that can be linked to him from the point of view of today's research contain even tighter information. Mostly only Mathis , Matheis , Mathes or Mattheus is mentioned , i.e. in modern terms Matthias or Matthäus. The addition painter is rarely found , even more rarely from Aschaffenburg or from Würzburg as an indication of origin. The named first names in their variants are among the most common of their time on the Middle and Upper Rhine .

Even the Matthäus Merian was the historic "Green Forest" as "green" a term

It was not until the 17th century that the contemporary designations were attributed and expanded with green or Grünewald . Sandrart does not necessarily have to have been its author: from his partly autobiographical description from 1675 it becomes clear that he must have known this term before his trip to Italy in 1629 and associated it with "Matthias von Aschaffenburg". In 1641, however, long before Sandrart went to press, Matthäus Merian spoke of a Matheus Grün from Aschaffenburg, and in 1657/67 Remigius Faesch from Basel dissolved the monogram MG in Matheß Grün from Aschaffenburg .

To this day, research has not been able to unequivocally explain the path of this new formation: Sandrart may have come across the back cover APOCAL. GRVNE / WALT of a Dutch graphic collection from 1637 on "Grünewald". It contains sheets by the artist Matthias Gerung that bear the monogram MG , which both Faesch and Sandrart added to the historical “Grünewald”.

Since Sandrart used the nickname he coined before 1637, another possibility is to mix the biography “Grünewald” with that of a carver, sculptor and painter named Mathis Grün who lived in Frankfurt am Main in the first third of the 16th century . This is based on the assumption that Sandrart did his own documentary research and, due to the frequency of the given name and its variants, mixed up the biographies of several people.

Findings of modern research

The tradition of names from the 17th century was hardly questioned until the beginning of the 20th century. This was in stark contrast to the rediscovery of the “Grünewald” work from the middle of the 19th century and the success of art historical research in being able to ascribe more and more preserved pictures to him beyond Sandrart's catalog raisonné. The three-part monogram MGN on two of his works was often interpreted as Nuremberg, while the two other well-known MG monograms continued to coincide with the old tradition.

The art historian Walther Karl Zülch , who has been researching since 1911 based on the rich tradition of the Frankfurt City Archives, was able to resolve the conflict over the name Grünewald . This presented a huge challenge, especially because contemporary documents from around 1500 mostly only refer to Master Mathis (Mathes) or Mathis (Mathes) painter . Because of the already mentioned accumulation of the name, countless historical personalities are hidden behind these names, which is perhaps why Sandrart was already on the wrong track.

In fact, in 1917, Zülch published research results for the first time that could trace the artist back to a Mathis Nithart or Gothart , and in 1938 his monograph The historical Grünewald, which is still important today, was published . Although this is no longer tenable in some details from the point of view of today's research, since he too “mixed in” the résumés of some artists who were not identical to the historical Grünewald despite his critical work, little has changed with regard to his findings on the name since then .

Accordingly, the artist called himself Mathis (modern: Matthias ) Gothart , although he was probably a born Nithart . The first name is handwritten in a study, the so-called Oxford drawing . The frequent "confusion" of the name with variants of the name Matthew , especially in contemporary documents, is due to dialectal slurries and the fact that there was no standardized spelling.

The mentioned combination of artist names and family names is the most conclusive explanation for all known signatures of the artist, although the duplication could not be clarified. Although Gothart and Nithart can be documented as early as 1516 and 1526 respectively, they both appear in the inventory of the artist's estate in 1528 together with objects that they relate to the reconstructable life cycle and the work of the historical "Grünewald".

As early as the 1960s, various corrections were made to the biography of Grünewald outlined by Zülch, whenever a correction became necessary due to new documents or pictures. Forced z. B. Alfred Schädler with his research results from 1962 prompted art historians to rethink an essential point. He provided evidence that the Seligenstadt carver Mathis cannot be identical with Mathis Gothardt-Neithardt.

At the beginning of the 1970s, the historian Hans Jürgen Rieckenberg caused quite a stir in Grünewald research. In several publications he presented his theory on the subject of Grünewald in detail and thus questioned all previous art historical research. He was primarily concerned with the massive contradictions between the current state of research about Grünewald and the information from his first biographer Joachim von Sandrart, which already begins with the name: It remains incomprehensible why Sandrart, whose report about the painter we have so many accurate and We owe no news transmitted by anyone else who should have chosen the name Grünewald. It is also striking that the name Mathis Gothart or Nithart was never mentioned in connection with the recognized works of Grünewald until Zülch's publications, neither during the artist's lifetime nor after his death. In addition, the two preserved MGN monograms on the Laurentius tablet of the Heller Altar in Frankfurt (around 1510) and the Maria Schnee Altar in Aschaffenburg (1519) date from a time when the name Nithart cannot be identified; only one document from 1516 is known for the name Gothart . The combination of these two names occurs only once, namely in 1528 during the negotiation of the painter's estate before the Frankfurt court: his name is given in the protocol as Nithart ader Gothart , i.e. Mathis Nithart or Mathis Gothart . According to Rieckenberg, nothing indicates that Grünewald had a double name, as Zülch represented. In addition, there is several evidence that the name Grünewald was already known before the publication of Sandrart's essay in the Teutsche Academie ... and therefore could not simply be dismissed as his invention: the name Matheus Grün von Aschaffenburg appeared as early as 1641 with Matthias Merian d. Ä. on; Around 1660, the Basel collector Remigius Fäsch noted the same name in his documents on the MG monogram ; and finally the name Matheus Grien appeared in the Strasbourg catalog of the Kunstkammer des Seidensticker and collector BL Künast (1668 and 1673) , although the works listed under this name are verifiably by Grünewald. In addition, the name Grün can and must be seen as the short form of Grünewald , just as the short form Schön is often found for the name Martin Schongauer , so u. a. at Merian, Künast and Sandrart. With regard to the MGN monogram , Rieckenberg suspects that the N could be the first letter of Grünewald's place of birth, as was the custom of the time. However, Schön always appears with the full name of Schongauer in court files and other documents .


Biographical sketches before Rieckenberg - Mathis Gothardt-Neithardt

Until the time of intensive research by the historian Rieckenberg, the artist's biography could neither be fully nor clearly reconstructed. Following Zülch's remarks, the following assumption prevailed: Matthias Grünewald was born around 1475–80 in Würzburg . Where and from whom he learned to paint is not known, but his work shows that he knew pictures by Hans Holbein the Elder , Albrecht Dürer , Lucas Cranach the Elder , Hans Burgkmair the Elder and Albrecht Altdorfer as well as with the Dutch and Italian ones Painting was familiar. This and the two earliest works ascribed to Grünewald indicate a presence in Nuremberg around 1500, although this cannot be documented.

Saint Erasmus on the Erasmus Mauritius board - Here Grünewald gave the saint the facial features of his client Albrecht von Brandenburg.

In contrast, in the Mainz vicariate files on November 30, 1505, a “master Mathis” with a “famulus” (journeyman) in Aschaffenburg is attested for the first time. This involves working on the epitaph for the vicar of the collegiate church , Johannes Reitzmann, who died on September 13, 1504 . There is a tendency today - mainly due to the frequent addition of Aschaffenburg to the name - that the secondary residence in Mainz had been Grünewald's permanent residence since 1505 at the latest. Since then, Grünewald has presumably served as court clerk to the Archbishop of Mainz, Jakob von Liebenstein . Under his successor, Uriel von Gemmingen , he was entrusted with technical tasks from 1509.

As with many other artists of his time, the professional understanding encompassed a very wide range of activities. In 1510 he was supposed to repair the fountain at Klopp Castle near Bingen on the Rhine , which is why he was one of the so-called water artisans (today one would say hydraulic engineer ). As the highest art official at court, he also had to supervise new buildings and in this role he was in charge of the renovation work in Aschaffenburg Castle, the predecessor of Johannisburg Castle . His work there was only passed on to posterity because the work failed and a trial took place (Kemnat trial 1514–16).

The trial file, which was one of the most important “Grünewald documents” alongside his will, but which was burned in the Frankfurt City Archives during World War II, indicated that the artist was not present for most of the trial. This coincides with the traditional date of his main work, the Isenheim Altarpiece , which he probably created between 1512 at the earliest and 1516 at the latest. Recent research has brought into play that he was not active in Isenheim itself, but in the next larger city, Strasbourg, during the period mentioned.

After that, around 1516, Grünewald entered the service of the new Archbishop of Mainz, Albrecht von Brandenburg, as court painter . For this he was again as the chief art official of the archbishop's court in the residential city of Halle an der Saale responsible for the supervision of construction projects. In this function he was commissioned as a water artist to plan a water pipe from Haibach to the collegiate church in Aschaffenburg and to supervise its construction.

Around 1526 Grünewald resigned from court service and settled in Frankfurt am Main , which is often seen in connection with sympathy for the rebellious forces of the Peasant War . In the free imperial city he earned his living as a soap maker ; he lived in the house at the Einhorn with the silk embroiderer Hans von Saarbrücken. In the summer of 1527 he moved back to his former place of work in Halle, where he was supposed to make a mill drawing for Magdeburg . Friends of the artist informed the city council on September 1, 1528 that he had died. Therefore it is often assumed that August 31, 1528 is the day of his death. The fact that this date is "documented" is, however, an individual opinion.

According to the research results of his biographer Joachim von Sandrart , Grünewald was a strict, ascetic man who was open to new ideas. It is not known whether he was ever married. However, he had an adopted son, Endress (Andreas) Neidhart, who now fought for the surrender of his paternal inheritance in a process that lasted years until 1540.

Biography after Rieckenberg - Mathis Grün

In a very extensive essay published in 1974, the historian Hans Jürgen Rieckenberg (1915-2003) went into detail on Zülch's Mathis Gothardt-Neithardt theory. He reveals its inconsistencies and gaps in extremely detailed form. He then compiles the known and verifiable facts for a biography of this artist. Based on his research, he comes to the following presentation of his biography: Grünewald was born around 1480 in a village near Aschaffenburg, which probably begins with the letter N. Nothing is known about his youth. Around 1500 he appeared as a journeyman to the painter Hans Fyoll in Frankfurt a. M., but was also probably a pupil of Dürer. In 1503 he painted the Lindenhardt Altar in Nuremberg; In 1504 or 1505, Johann von Cronberg commissioned the Mocking of Munich as a memorial tablet for his sister, who died on December 23, 1503. Cronberg was the deputy of the Archbishop of Mainz in Aschaffenburg, so that Grünewald came into contact with the Mainz electoral archbishop's court for the first time. As early as 1505, Grünewald can be traced back to the service of Archbishop Jakob von Liebenstein of Mainz. In addition to the Crucifixion in Basel, both the missing Transfiguration on Mount Tabor and the inactive wings of the Heller Altar for the Dominican Church in Frankfurt were created during this time .

Work on behalf of his employer or the cathedral chapter included the (unsuccessful) chimney construction in Aschaffenburg Castle (1510/1511) and the construction of a fountain at Bingen Castle (1510). Grünewald's activity as court painter ended at the latest with the death of Uriel von Gemmingen on February 9, 1514, but perhaps as early as 1512 when he was commissioned to paint the high altar for the Antonite monastery in Isenheim.

Until that year 1512, Grünewald's life was essentially as Zülch and other art historians have described it. After that, however, they followed the documents of Mathis Gothart or Mathis Nithart and not Mathis Grüns. He came to Frankfurt at the end of 1512 and married an 18-year-old Jewish woman who was baptized Anna in Frankfurt Cathedral on August 15 of the same year with great sympathy from the clergy, the religious orders and the city council . On December 15, Grünewald took the citizenship oath and two days later bought the house at Löwenstein in Kannengießergasse by the cathedral. However, he painted the large panels of the altar for the Antonites in Isenheim himself, although he occasionally stayed in Frankfurt. In 1516 the altar was completed and Grünewald applied in vain for the municipal wood knife office in Frankfurt, since the new Archbishop Albrecht von Brandenburg (in office since March 9, 1514) did not confirm Grünewald as court painter, but instead gave this post to Mathis Gothart had forgiven. Grünewald was therefore never the official court painter to Albrecht von Brandenburg.

In 1519 Grünewald completed the Maria-Schnee-Altar for a side chapel of the collegiate church in Aschaffenburg on behalf of the canon Heinrich Reitzmann . From this altar only the monogrammed frame for the central picture and a wing picture have survived. Around 1520, a depiction of the crucifixion, now in Washington, was created as a personal devotional image for Albrecht von Brandenburg, which Sandrart had called a "small crucifix". During this time, Grünewald also painted the three missing Mainz cathedral altars as well as the Munich Erasmus tablet (1521/22), which depicts a portrait of Albrecht, on behalf of the archbishop. Because of these numerous works for the archbishop, it seems to Rieckenberg likely that Grünewald stayed at the court in Mainz and Aschaffenburg even after his official term as court painter. But despite all of these orders and his associated success and reputation during his time in Frankfurt, considerable economic difficulties soon became apparent. After 1516, he again applied for two municipal offices in 1519, the building and porter office, which would have guaranteed him regular income. He was sued several times in the Frankfurt court for debts. Instead of painting portraits of princes, nobles and merchants or making woodcuts and copperplate engravings, like many other artists, Grünewald's art was limited to religious subjects. As a result, it was not possible for him to gather a larger circle of supporters around himself. His only great and permanent patron was Cardinal Albrecht, who was a great lover of art, but also a defaulting payer of his debts. The financial situation came to a head when Grünewald's wife went mad in 1523 and had to be admitted to the Heilig-Geist-Spital. However, he managed to reach payment arrangements with his numerous creditors. On April 2, 1527 he finally sold his house in Frankfurt, left his belongings with Hans Fyoll and left the city with his small child, whose name and gender are unknown.

Two and a half years later, in September 1529, Grünewald reappeared in connection with the rebuilding of Reichenberg Castle in the Odenwald in the service of the Lords of Erbach. In this last creative phase of the painter, the two Karlsruhe crucifixion panels of the so-called Tauberbischofsheimer Altar (after 1528), the Magdalenenklage, the Erlanger self-portrait (1529) and the last work, the Aschaffenburg Lamentation (around 1530), were created. While the dating of 1529 on the Erlangen drawing was questioned in connection with the Gothardt-Neithardt theory, since he should have died in 1528, there is no longer any reason to question this dating within Mathis Grün's biography.

Grünewald died between March 23, 1531 and October 16, 1532, still in the service of the Lords of Erbach. The cause of death is unknown. His child probably died around the same time. His wife, who was still in the hospital in Frankfurt, was unable to take care of the inheritance herself. She left this to the administrator of the hospital, Jakob Folcker, who in a letter dated October 16, 1532 asked the gentlemen von Erbach to have the estate sent to him. At this point in time, Grünewald must have already died; the actual day of death can be much earlier. With his departure from Frankfurt he seems to have quickly disappeared from the field of vision of his friends and possible admirers of his art. You did not notice his death. Sandrart was also unable to report anything about Grünewald's last years with the von Erbach men.

Of course, Rieckenberg's sensational publications met with vehement protests from art historians, not least because a historian had entered their territory and dared to dismiss all of the previous Grünewald research as a fatal error. And yet almost ten years later he surprisingly received support from the photographer Wolf Lücking. In 1977 Wilhelm Fraenger's estate administrators commissioned him to photograph the painter's entire oeuvre for the new edition of his Grünewald biography from 1936. During this work, however, Lücking suddenly got caught up in the scientific debate about Grünewald's identity and began researching for his own book. In the course of his detailed research work, like Rieckenberg, he comes to the conclusion that only the painter Mathis Grün von Aschaffenburg can be the “real” Grünewald.

A weighty indication against Rieckenberg's thesis by Mathis Grün , however, are three drawings that were glued into a Bible by Hans Plogk (now in the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett). These are undoubtedly from Grünewald. But Plogk was in contact with Master Mathis Gothart and was one of the witnesses of his death in Halle.


Grünewald as a young man at Sandrart 1675

According to recent research, no authentic portrait of the artist has come down to us. Like the name, Joachim von Sandrart first showed two copperplate engravings in his work , which are supposed to represent Matthias Grünewald at different ages.

The template for Wolf Huber's first sandrart engraving from 1522

The first shows a beardless man between 30 and 40 years old with a scabbard, a Dürer monogram and the legend Matheus Grinwalt Mahler . According to Sandrart, the picture was created when Dürer and Grünewald were working together on the Heller Altar . After the First World War , the later director of the Berlin Cabinet of Prints and Drawings , Friedrich Winkler, succeeded in finding the engraving model in what was then a private English possession.

During an investigation, it turned out to be a drawing by an unknown person by the Austrian painter Wolf Huber from 1522. Its original signature was replaced by the forged Dürer's in the 17th century. At the same time, the assumption that, due to the similarity of the engraving in St. Sebastian of the Isenheim Altarpiece, a self-portrait by Grünewald was rendered invalid.

In 1679 Sandrart showed a second alleged portrait of Grünewald in his work, the model of which he had seen shortly before in the possession of the Nuremberg councilor Philipp Jacob Stromer. The engraving describes an upward-looking, around 60-year-old, bearded man with a brush. The original (reversed or, due to the nature of the copper engraving, correct) is actually a drawing by Grünewald from around 1512–16, which, albeit in a very poor condition, is now in the graphic collection of the University Library Erlangen-Nuremberg .

The second Grünewald portrait by Sandrart in 1679, based on the alleged Erlangen self-portrait
Great similarity: Johannes on Patmos of the Johannes Altar by Hans Burgkmair the Elder. Ä., 1518

The Erlangen self-portrait was heavily revised by a later hand and provided with Grünewald's monogram MG and the supposed date of death 1529. This, but above all the interpretation of a quill pen in the Grünewald model as a brush and thus an artist's attribute , not only led to many copies, but also to the assumption, probably by Sandrarts among others, that it was a self-portrait of Grünewald. Again based on this, in the past people thought to see Grünewald in his works in the turban wearer of the mockery of Christ , the kneeling patrician on the snow wonder of the Stuppach Madonna and the bearded head with cap on the Mauritius Erasmus board .

However, research over the last few decades has increasingly cast doubt on whether the Erlanger sheet is a portrait. First of all, the classic characteristics for self-portraits or even portraits of the time such as B. direct eye contact. Above all, however, a portrayal of the writing evangelist Johannes on Patmos by the artistically related Hans Burgkmair the Elder reveals that Ä. In his Johannes Altar from 1518 you can see very clearly that it is exactly the same type. So Grünewald probably put a study of saints on paper rather than a self-portrait.


Grünewald was a well-known man in his time, but he was only called a famous painter after his death. In 1531 the reformer Philipp Melanchthon put him on a par with Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach . When Emperor Rudolf II wanted to purchase the Isenheim Altarpiece in 1597 , his name had been forgotten again. From 1674 the altar was already considered a work by Dürer.

Detail of the crucifixion table of the Isenheim Altarpiece - it was only the rediscovery of this altar that led to a change in the appreciation of the artist Grünewald

It was only 150 years after Grünewald's death that the painter and historian Joachim von Sandrart tracked him down again and published his discovery in 1675 and 1679 (see name ). Apparently he had found several of his works and correctly assigned them to his Grünewald . This also included the large convertible altar in Isenheim . From this he apparently only knew the panel with the depiction of the temptations of St. Antony . He also named Eisenach in Thuringia instead of Isenheim as his location. It took another 200 years until the altar was finally recognized as a work by Matthias Grünewald in 1873.

It was similar with the Stuppach Madonna . It was not until 1881 that the picture was recognized as a work by Grünewald. In 1897, the art expert HA Schmid-Basel examined the supposed new discovery, but was initially not convinced of the attribution. As a result of many restorations, the picture had lost most of Grünewald's handwriting.

Detail of an unknown saint, possibly Lucia, from the Heller altar - Grünewald's panels are considered to be one of the main works of the grisaille technique

Grünewald only became known, popular and therefore marketable at the beginning of the 20th century. He himself did little for his fame. While with Dürer, his contemporary, hardly a sheet left his workshop without a signature and year, Grünewald, like most artists of the Middle Ages, stepped back behind his work. He carried this type over into the emerging early Renaissance and is therefore referred to as the last Gothic or the last “Gothic” painter.

Only four unique monograms of his are known:

  • the MGN on the Laurentius picture, one of the inactive wings of the Heller Altar, which is now in the Städel / Frankfurt;
  • the MGN on the frame of the Maria-Schnee-Altar in the collegiate church in Aschaffenburg '
  • The MG on the so-called three-man head, also known as the Trias Romana ;
  • the mg. on the small crucifix.

Science therefore found it difficult to assign the works to the artist. So it is not surprising that many of his pictures remained literally hidden without the knowledge of the true master. The snow miracle picture, a side panel of the Maria-Schnee-Altar, today in Freiburg, was auctioned in 1857 for 15 guilders and 36 cruisers. As early as 1808, nothing was known about the subject of the picture either. A visitor later described it in his book: "A Pope with a procession shovels up the snow, an old man, woman and six children watch kneeling and praying". It was not until 1897 that the picture was recognized as a work by MGN and was published in 1902.

There are no documents whatsoever about the purchase price of the picture of the Virgin Mary, the Stuppach Madonna , middle picture of the Maria-Schnee-Altar, which Pastor Blumhofer had to pay. At least ten pages were cut out of the parish chronicle over this period. The insurance value of the picture is said to be 100 million euros today.

Grünewald's ecclesiastical appreciation consists of commemorations of the Evangelical Church in Germany ( August 30th in the Evangelical Name Calendar ) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ( April 6th ).


Triple portrait Trias Romana , 1525, chalk drawing in the Kupferstichkabinett Berlin , State Museums

Grünewald's surviving work is small in scope, but is one of the most important expressions of art in Europe. His favorite subjects were religious scenes.

Today 21 individual pictures and five devotional pictures of five, possibly six altars have been preserved. 35 drawings, almost exclusively studies, complete Grünewald's artistic estate. Another three altars and a picture of the lost part of the work must be considered known; after all, one more creation, at least in a copy from the 17th century, has come down to us.

The problem is that many of Grünewald's works can only be ascribed to him through style criticism. In general, there are only documents relating to the Isenheim Altarpiece that confirm its authorship; at least its signature can be found on three other works. Years are also very rare in his oeuvre , here only three are known. Whether Grünewald rarely signed and dated must remain speculation in view of the great fragmentation and the sometimes extremely poor state of preservation of his works.


Last Supper at the Coburg Table, around 1500

The most recent addition to Grünewald's work and at the same time perhaps his oldest work is the Coburg tablet , which is now in the art collections of the Veste Coburg . It entered the London art market in 1968 and returned to Germany , where it was first attributed to MGN in 1969. The Lord's Supper is depicted on the former outer sides of a predella , perhaps also of a house altar, which are now joined together to form one picture, while the separate portraits of St. Agnes and St. Dorothea are shown on the inside . The remainder of the letter G can still be seen above the head of Christ in the first representation.

The attribution can only be based on the style criticism, since the provenance can only be traced over a very short period of time and no documentary evidence of the work has been preserved. In addition, many parts of it lost quality due to later restorations, the best preserved is the depiction of St. Dorothea. The three paintings that belong together have so far been roughly dated to around 1500, in some cases even only to the first five of the 16th century. It has not yet been clearly established whether the Coburg panel is the remainder of an independent altar that is largely unknown.

In recent research, the so-called Lindenhardt Altar is partially set as its predella depending on it . It takes its name from its current location, the Evangelical Parish Church in the Creußen district of Lindenhardt near Bayreuth . The work was created around 1503 - this year is preserved on his shrine - in Michael Wolgemut's workshop in Nuremberg. Grünewald's contribution were the fourteen emergency helpers on the outside of the wings and a man of sorrows on the back.

The Lindenhardt work has suffered even more than the Coburg table, in particular the intense coloring that is so typical of Grünewald has faded due to improper installation over a long period of time. Once again, only the style criticism can provide the attribution, which, however, is more unambiguous, for example in the similarity of the female saints to those of the Coburg table or the demon to those of the Isenheim Altarpiece. Much like the Coburg plant refers to Nuremberg. Here, too, the circumstances of the creation can no longer be clarified: the picture was originally located as a high altar in the Bindlach parish church and was given to the neighboring church in Lindenhardt after a fire in 1685.

In 1504 Grünewald created The Mocking Christ as an epitaph for his deceased sister on behalf of Johann von Kronberg . In 1510 he was commissioned to paint four inactive wings for the Heller Altar in Frankfurt am Main, whose central painting was made by Albrecht Dürer. Probably in 1511 four grisailles of St. Laurentius and St. Cyriakus (today Frankfurt am Main, Städel) as well as St. Elisabeth and St. Lucia (today Karlsruhe State Art Gallery) were created.

The Isenheim Altarpiece (first side) - probably made between 1506 and 1515

The commonly regarded as his main work Isenheim altar , he started at the latest in 1513 and completed but this probably 1516. Art historians do not exclude that the preceptor of Antoniterklosters in Isenheim in Alsace commissioned him already in 1506 with the creation of the altarpiece, which for the Chapel of Hospital was intended.

In 1516, the Collegiate Foundation of Aschaffenburg commissioned Grünewald to create altar paintings. The Maria-Schnee-Altar, which had been ordered for the collegiate church of St. Peter and Alexander in Aschaffenburg , was built in 1517–19 . Of this, the central picture, the so-called Stuppach Madonna ( Stuppach , parish church), has been preserved as the former right wing, the so-called Snow Wonder ( Freiburg im Breisgau , Augustinermuseum).

The so-called Mainz altars were created around 1520, with probably 15 pictures, almost half of Grünewald's complete works that have survived today, which were stolen by the Swedes in the Thirty Years' War in 1631/32 and lost in a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea . Then came the Erasmus and Mauritius board for the New Abbey in Halle an der Saale , which is located in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich . The panels of the Tauberbischofsheimer altar from the years between 1522 and 1525 can be seen today in the State Art Gallery in Karlsruhe .

Only the "Lamentation of Christ", probably painted in 1525 on behalf of Cardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg for a Holy Sepulcher chest in the collegiate church of Aschaffenburg , is still at its original place of origin. It is considered his last work.

Overview of the paintings preserved

motive Affiliation /
most common title (s)
Dating Location image
Last supper Coburg table around 1500 Coburg , art collections of the Veste Coburg Matthias Gruenewald-Coburg Table-Last Supper.jpg
St. Agnes Coburg table around 1500 Coburg, art collections of the Veste Coburg Matthias Gruenewald-Coburger Tafel-Heilige Agnes.jpg
St. Dorothea Coburg table around 1500 Coburg, art collections of the Veste Coburg Matthias Gruenewald-Coburger Tafel-Heilige Dorothea.jpg
Man of Sorrows and
Fourteen First Aid
Lindenhardt Altar around 1503 Lindenhardt , Parish Church of St. Michael 14helpers.jpg14helpers2.jpg
Mocking Christ about 1503-05 Munich , Alte Pinakothek Mathis Gothart Grünewald 062.jpg
Crucifixion of Christ Basel crucifixion about 1505-06 Basel , Kunstmuseum Basel Mathis Gothart Grünewald 047.jpg
St. Cyriacus Heller altar about 1509-11 Frankfurt am Main , Städelsches Kunstinstitut , permanent loan from the Frankfurt Historical Museum Matthias Gruenewald-Heller-Altar-Saint Cyriakus.jpg
St. Elizabeth Heller altar about 1509-11 Karlsruhe , State Art Gallery Matthias Gruenewald-Heller-Altar-Saint Elisabeth.jpg
St. Laurence Heller altar about 1509-11 Frankfurt am Main, Städel, permanent loan from the Frankfurt Historical Museum Matthias Gruenewald-Heller-Altar-Saint Laurentius.jpg
Unknown saint, Lucia (?) Heller altar about 1509-11 Karlsruhe, State Art Gallery Matthias Gruenewald-Heller-Altar-Unknown Saints.jpg
Crucifixion of Christ Washington Crucifixion, Small Crucifixion, Small Crucifix about 1511-20 Washington , National Gallery of Art Mathis Gothart Grünewald 007.jpg
Resurrection of Jesus Christ Isenheim Altarpiece about 1512-16 Colmar , Musée d'Unterlinden Mathis Gothart Grünewald 044.jpg
Visit of St. Anthony at St. Paul of Thebes Isenheim Altarpiece about 1512-16 Colmar, Musée d'Unterlinden Mathis Gothart Grünewald 012.jpg
Lamentation of Christ Isenheim Altarpiece about 1512-16 Colmar, Musée d'Unterlinden Mathis Gothart Grünewald 028.jpg
Angel concert and incarnation of Christ Isenheim Altarpiece about 1512-16 Colmar, Musée d'Unterlinden Mathis Gothart Grünewald 036.jpg
St. Anthony Isenheim Altarpiece about 1512-16 Colmar, Musée d'Unterlinden Mathis Gothart Grünewald 029.jpg
St. Sebastian Isenheim Altarpiece about 1512-16 Colmar, Musée d'Unterlinden Mathis Gothart Grünewald 020.jpg
Crucifixion of Christ Isenheim Altar / Isenheim Crucifixion about 1512-16 Colmar, Musée d'Unterlinden Mathis Gothart Grünewald 022.jpg
Annunciation Isenheim Altarpiece about 1512-16 Colmar, Musée d'Unterlinden Mathis Gothart Grünewald 031.jpg
Temptation of St. Anthony Isenheim Altarpiece about 1512-16 Colmar, Musée d'Unterlinden Mathis Gothart Grünewald 015.jpg
Stuppacher Madonna Maria Snow Altar around 1516-19 Stuppach , parish church Mathis Gothart Grünewald 001.jpg
Snow miracle Maria Snow Altar around 1516-19 Freiburg im Breisgau , Augustinian Museum Matthias Grünewald - Establishment of the Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome - WGA10779.jpg
Small crucifixion around 1519-20 National Gallery of Art Washington Matthias Grünewald - The Crucifixion - WGA10711.jpg
Reception of St. Erasmus by St. Mauritius Erasmus Mauritius blackboard about 1520-24 Munich, Alte Pinakothek Mathis Gothart Grünewald 011.jpg
Christ carrying the cross Tauberbischofsheim Altarpiece about 1523-25 Karlsruhe, State Art Gallery Mathis Gothart Grünewald 060.jpg
Crucifixion of Christ Tauberbischofsheimer Altar / Karlsruhe Crucifixion about 1523-25 Karlsruhe, State Art Gallery Mathis Gothart Grünewald 058.jpg
Lamentation of Christ around 1525 Aschaffenburg , Collegiate Church of St. Peter and Alexander Matthias Gruenewald-Beweinung Christi-Aschaffenburg-Web Gallery of Art.jpg



Matthias as a figure in art

Paul Hindemith's symphony “Mathis the Painter” (1934) musically transforms motifs from the Isenheim Altarpiece, his opera Mathis the Painter (1938) is about fictional experiences of Mathis Gothart-Nithart during the Peasants' War. In Halle (Saale), the place where he died, the sculptor Gerhard Geyer created a memorial that stood near his former place of work on the Mühlberg in 1989 and, as early as 1967, a stylized grave slab that was later attached to the Church of St. Ulrich because his grave was lost is.

Grünewald as namesake

The following institutions refer to the painter Matthias Grünewald in their name:

In addition, the Matthias-Grünewald-Halle in Tauberbischofsheim and the asteroid (9645) Grünewald are named after him.


  • Friedrich Wilhelm BautzMatthias Grünewald. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 2, Bautz, Hamm 1990, ISBN 3-88309-032-8 , Sp. 367-369.
  • Natalie Beer : Mathis the painter. A Matthias Grünewald novel , 1970
  • Wilhelm Fraenger : Matthias Grünewald . Verlag CH Beck, Munich 1983, ISBN 3-364-00324-6 .
  • Anton Kehl: Grünewald research. Ph. CW Schmidt in commission, Neustadt an der Aisch 1964.
  • Heinz LadendorfGrünewald, Matthias. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 7, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1966, ISBN 3-428-00188-5 , pp. 191-197 ( digitized version ).
  • Wolf Lücking: Mathis. Research on Grünewald . Berlin 1983.
  • Jessica Mack-Andrick (Ed.): Grünewald and his time. State Art Gallery Karlsruhe, December 8, 2007–2. March 2008. On the occasion of the major Baden-Württemberg state exhibition “Grünewald and His Time”. Deutscher Kunstverlag, Munich 2007, ISBN 3-422-06762-0 .
  • Reiner Marquard : Mathias Grünewald and the Isenheim Altarpiece. Explanations, considerations, interpretations. Calwer Verlag, Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-7668-3463-0 .
  • Reiner Marquard: Mathias Grünewald and the Reformation. (= Theology, Religious Studies ; Vol. 8). Frank & Timme publishing house, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-86596-250-8 .
  • François-René Martin, Michel Menu, Sylvie Ramond: Grünewald . DuMont, Cologne 2013, ISBN 978-3-8321-9456-7 .
  • Karl Müssel: The riddle of Grünewald and Upper Franconia. For the 500th anniversary of the “Lindenhardt Altar” (1503–2003). In: Historischer Verein für Oberfranken (Hrsg.): Archive for the history of Upper Franconia. Vol. 83, Historical Association for Upper Franconia, Bayreuth 2003.
  • Hans Jürgen Rieckenberg: On the name and biography of the painter Mathias Grünewald. In: Festschrift for Hermann Heimpel on his 70th birthday . (= Publications of the Max Planck Institute for History . 36/1.) Göttingen 1971. S. 742.
  • Hans Jürgen Rieckenberg: Matthias Grünewald. A new look at name and life. In: Yearbook of the State Art Collections in Baden-Württemberg . Vol. 11, 1974. pp. 47-120.
  • Hans Jürgen Rieckenberg: Matthias Grünewald . Herrsching 1976.
  • Rainhard Riepertinger (Hrsg.): The riddle Grünewald. Catalog for the Bavarian State Exhibition 2002/03, Johannisburg Castle, Aschaffenburg, November 30, 2002 to February 28, 2003. Konrad Theiss Verlag, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-8062-1715-7 .
  • Michael Roth, Antje-Fee Köllermann u. a .: Matthias Grünewald. Drawings and paintings. On the occasion of the exhibition Matthias Grünewald - Drawings and Paintings, Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, March 13–1. June 2008. Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2008, ISBN 3-7757-2138-X .
  • Alfred Schädler : To the documents about Mathis Gothart Neithart. In: Münchner Jahrbuch der Bildenden Kunst 13, 1962, pp. 69–74.
  • Heinrich Alfred Schmid : The paintings and drawings by Matthias Grünewald. Heinrich, Strasbourg in Alsace 1911.
  • Ewald Maria Vetter: Grünewald. The altars in Frankfurt, Isenheim, Aschaffenburg and their iconography. Anton H. Konrad Verlag, Weißenhorn 2009, ISBN 978-3-87437-538-2 .
  • Herbert Vossberg: Biographical, genealogical and heraldic problems of Grünewaldforschung. In: The Herald. Quarterly for heraldry, genealogy, and allied sciences. New series Vol. 5/6, Issue 1, 1963, pp. 1-10.
  • Alfred WoltmannMatthias Grünewald . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 10, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1879, p. 52 f.
  • Horst Ziermann, Erika Beissel: Matthias Grünewald. Prestel Verlag, Munich / London / New York 2001, ISBN 3-7913-2432-2 .
  • Walther Karl Zülch : The historical Grünewald. Mathis Gothardt-Neithardt. F. Bruckmann Verlag, Munich 1938.
  • Max Seidel (ed.): "Mathis Gothart Nithart Grünewald - The Isenheimer Altar", Heinrich Geissler , Bernhard Saran, Joseph Harnest , Adalbert Mischlewski, foreword Oto Bihalji-Merin , Belser Verlag Stuttgart, 1973.
  • Erik Neutsch : After the great uprising. A Grünewald novel. Faber & Faber, Leipzig 2003, ISBN 3-936618-14-3 .

Web links

Commons : Matthias Grünewald  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Joachim von Sandrart: L'Academia Todesca della Architectura, Scultura & Pittura: Or Teutsche Academie der Noble Bau-, Bild- und Mahlerey-Künste [...]. Jacob von Sandrart / Mattäus Merian, Nuremberg / Frankfurt 1675; Joachim von Sandrart: The Teutschen Academie Zweyter and last main part / From the noble building, image and Mahlerey arts [...]. Michael and Johann Friedrich Endter / Johann von Sandrart, Franckfurt am Main 1679.
  2. Sandrart 1675, I, Book 3, p. 57 ( online ).
  3. Sandrart 1675, I, Book 3, p. 100 ( online ).
  4. Sandrart 1675, I, Book 3, p. 101 ( online ).
  5. Sandrart 1675, II, Book 3, p. 231 ( online ).
  6. Sandrart 1675, II, Book 3, p. 235 ( online ).
  7. Sandrart 1675, II, Book 3, p. 236 ( online ).
  8. Sandrart 1679, II, Book 2, p. 89 ( online ).
  9. Sandrart 1679, II, Book 3, p. 68 ( online ).
  10. Sandrart 1679, II, Book 3, p. 93 ( online ).
  11. ^ Karl Arndt: Grünewald - questions about a common artist name. In: Rainhard Riepertinger (Ed.): Das Rätsel Grünewald. Catalog for the Bavarian State Exhibition 2002/03, Johannisburg Castle, Aschaffenburg, November 30, 2002 to February 28, 2003. Theiss, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-8062-1715-7 , p. 19.
  12. ^ Alfred Schädler: On the documents about Mathis Gothat Neithart. In: Münchner Jahrbuch der Bildenden Kunst 13, 1962, pp. 69–74.
  13. ^ Rieckenberg, Hans Jürgen: On the name and biography of the painter Mathias Grünewald. In: Festschrift for Hermann Heimpel on his 70th birthday. (= Publications of the Max Planck Institute for History. 36/1.) Göttingen 1971. S. 742.
  14. Horst Ziermann, Erika Beissel: Matthias Grünewald . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2001, p. 30 .
  15. See e.g. B. Michael Schubert, The Isenheim Altarpiece. History - interpretation - background , Stuttgart 2007, p. 20.
  16. Pantheon. International Art Journal , 1971, p. 181.
  17. ^ Rieckenberg, Hans Jürgen: Matthias Grünewald. A new look at name and life. In: Yearbook of the State Art Collections in Baden-Württemberg. Vol. 11, 1974. pp. 47-120.
  18. ^ Continued also in Rieckenberg, Hans Jürgen: Matthias Grünewald. Herrsching 1976.
  19. ^ Fraenger, Wilhelm: Matthias Grünewald in his works. A physiognomic attempt . Berlin 1936.
  20. ^ Lücking, Wolf: Mathis. Research on Grünewald . Berlin 1983.
  21. Horst Ziermann, Erika Beissel: Matthias Grünewald . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2001, p. 63.65 .
  22. Matthias Grünewald in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints
  23. Evangelische Michaelsbruderschaft (editor): Evangelisches Tagzeitenbuch , Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 5th edition 2003, ISBN 3525602901 and ISBN 978-3525602904
  24. ^ Frieder Schulz, Gerhard Schwinge (editor): Synaxis: Contributions to the liturgy , Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen 1997 , ISBN 3-525-60398-3
  25. Grave slab and monument near Halle in the picture
  26. MPC