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SOLD for €6.2 Million to the Met in New York – An exceptionally rare painting by the 14th century Master of Vyšší Brod at auction in France

November 27, 2019

Master of Vyšší Brod (Bohemia, ca. 1350), Madonna and Child Enthroned, devotional panel, egg tempera on fruit tree wood panel, 26 x 20.2 cm.
Estimate: €400,000-600,000.

UPDATE: This painting sold for a hammer price of €5 million (€6.2 million with the buyer’s fee) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, assuming that an export license is granted.

ORIGINAL POST: Eric Turquin is having a good year. This past June the Paris-based Old Master painting expert was a featured player in the sale of purported Caravaggio (that was originally slated for auction with an estimate of some €150 million). He then identified a small panel painting as a lost work by Cimabue that sold for a remarkable €24,180,000 (including fees) at auction on October 27, 2019. Now he says that a Madonna and Child found in Dijon, France is a rare painting by the 14th century Master of Vyšší Brod – and it’s being auctioned this Saturday, November 30, 2019, and carries an estimate of €400,000-€600,000.

Master of Vyšší Brod (Bohemia, ca. 1350) the Annunciation.

Unless you’ve been to the Saint Agnes convent in Prague, or you have a yen for medieval Bohemian art, you’ve probably not heard of this as yet unidentified painter (a good resource on the period is Prague, The Crown of Bohemia, 1347–1437, the catalogue that accompanied the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2005 exhibition – it’s available as a free down load). The Master’s moniker derives from a cycle of paintings from c. 1350 by him and his workshop depicting Christian themes and the life of Christ that were created for the Cistercian Monastery Church of the Assumption in Vyšší Brod. The paintings are now housed in a single room at the museum in the Saint Agnes convent.  Four of the nine paintings – the Annunciation (above), the Nativity (below), the Adoration of the Magi and the Resurrection – are considered autograph, the remainder are considered to be largely by his workshop.

Master of Vyšší Brod (Bohemia, ca. 1350) the Nativity.

A museum panel about the works says: “With its artistic concept the cycle represents a characteristic Central-European synthesis of the West-European linearly rhythmical style with colorful finesse of the Italian (Tuscan) paintings, a situation typical of Prague around the mid-14th century. Its anonymous author ranks among the most noteworthy painters of Central Europe. The original purpose of the cycle remains unclear.”

Master of Vyšší Brod (Bohemia, ca. 1350), the Annunciation, detail.

Characteristics of the Master’s work and those in his circle are the rich fabrics, frequently embroidered with delicate gilt detailing (Annunciation detail, above), the idiosyncratic and craggy landscape features, and the striking use of architectural embellishments as framing devices for the narratives. The Glatz Madonna in Berlin (below) by one of his followers shows the Master’s influence.

Bohemian Master, c. 1343-44, Glatz Madonna
Tempera on canvas over a poplar panel: 186 x 95 cm

According to the auction house, the background of the newly discovered painting is a later addition. Infrared radiography (below) reveals that the Madonna and Child are framed by an intricate architectural background featuring a niched surrounded by two tiers of columns and other elements.

Master of Vyšší Brod (Bohemia, ca. 1350), Madonna and Child.
Infrared radiography reveals architectural embellishments hidden by overpaint.

A careful cleaning could reveal the original background and allow this gem to shine again.

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