Holbein`s Virgin of Mercy

Maria spreads out her cloak...

Approximately 500 years ago in Basel, Hans Holbein the Younger (*1497 Augsburg – 1543 London) painted his masterpiece entitled “Madonna of the Lord Mayor Jacob Meyer zum Hasen”. This panel painting, often compared to Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, owes its international reputation equally to the long and complex history of its genesis, to Holbein’s ingenious and bold pictorial inventiveness, and to the work’s highly unusual later fate.

The panel painting, rounded off at the top by an arc, shows the Mother of God standing with the Christ Child on her arm in a large scalloped niche. The figures kneeling at her feet are sheltered by her wide open cloak, indicating that she is the so-called “Virgin of Mercy”.

Along with other exceptional masterpieces of the late Middle Ages in the Würth Collection, for example, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Tilman Riemenschneider or the Master of Messkirch, the Johanniterkirche also accommodates a work by Hans Holbein the Elder, father of Hans Holbein the Younger. After having been acquired by entrepreneur and collector Reinhold Würth the new Madonna painting finally builds a bridge between the Old Masters and early modern times. Without a doubt, the “Virgin of Mercy” is one of the world’s most famous, important and beautiful Old Master paintings, and its creator one of the most outstanding artists of the 16th century.

The meantime secularised Johanniterkirche originally dates from the 12th century. It has been extensively refurbished and its exemplary restoration gained it the 2011 Hugo Häring Prize. Since 2008 it has functioned as a branch of the Kunsthalle Würth and now provides the ideal framework for this important group of Old Master paintings from the Würth Collection.

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