Časopis ARS 34 (2001) 2-3

Martin ŠUGÁR

Vplyv Martina Schongauera na Majstra MS
[Influence of Martin Schongauer on Master MS]


Master MS is an anonymous painter active about 1500. Despite of his art had been studied for over a century, his origin and a number of his works have not even been achieved unambiguously. Only four panel paintings of the Passion (the Mount of Olives, the Carrying of the Cross, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection) are evidently by Master MS. On the Resurrection there are initials M and S and a master's mark between them. Next to a monogram is a year 1506 that was discovered later through restoration of the panels in 1915.

Oeuvre of Master MS includes also the Visitation (Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest) and the Nativity (a parish church in Svätý Anton/Szent Antal) near Banská Štiavnica (Selmecbánya/Schemnitz).

In 1928 Ernst Buchner attempted to attribute paintings of Master MS to Jörg Breu sr. from Augsburg. He classed the Adoration of Magi (Musée des Beaux Arts, Lille) as a masterpiece of Jörg Breu sr. (alias Master MS). Buchner's identification of both painters was refused but the Adoration of Magi is still accepted as a piece of Master MS.

In 1974 Miklós Mojzer attributed a panel painting the Descent from the Cross (Toruń, Poland) to Master MS. His attempt was little discussed.

The panel paintings of Master MS are based on Miklós Mojzer hypothetic reconstruction of an altar. He suggested it to be a high altar in a former church of Virgin Mary (the Old Castle) in Banská Štiavnica. The findings of restorers made his suggestion very serious and acceptable.

Statues of Virgin Mary with Jesus Child (church of St. Catherine, Banská Štiavnica) accompanied by St. Catherine and St. Barbara (Banské múzeum, Banská Štiavnica) could be situated in an altar shrine. The altar could have a couple of moveable and fixed wings.

On the reverse of the Carrying of the Cross were found dowel holes and a rest of gilded background forming silhouettes of a couple of figures. That means that on the reverse of the moveable wings had to be placed couples of figures of saints. The altar with open wings represented a entirely wood carved work.

Outer side of the wings was painted. An altar with closed wings featured two horizontal registers. In upper one should be represented scenes from the life of Virgin Mary (the Visitation preserved only, the Nativity is a point of issue, the Annunciation and the Adoration of Magi not preserved supposedly). A lower register represented the Passion (completely preserved).

The subject of an article was a consequent comparison of the panel paintings of Master MS and a graphic and painting production from the end of 15th and the beginning of 16th century. It resulted in master’s preferring of prints of Martin Schongauer and early prints of Albrecht Dürer but he was little constrained by them. Also his connection to paintings of Rogier van der Weyden was approved.

A detailed description of the brush writing and under painting in the panels of Master MS divided them into two groups. The first one defined by gentle and detailed writing by a thin brush, typical for the Passion, and the second one characterised by stack writing by a wide brush in the Visitation. These differences are examined also in the each one panel painting of Master MS, too. The panels therefore should be painted by more individualised painters of the same workshop.

In 1937 Otto Benesch attempted to compare the panel painting of Master MS ( he considered them to be the works of Jörg Breu sr.) and illuminations of the four volumes Mass book (dated 1496?-1515?) of Hugo von Hohenlandenberg, the bishop of Constance. The latest facts on the Mass book (illuminated by Spring in Klee from Zürich? and by Ulrich Thaler from Augsburg) and on the production of a workshop of Master of the altar in Hohenlandenberg (carver Michael Haider?) may allow to suggest closer connection of the panel paintings of Master MS to them. They all are based on under paintings, mostly ignored, with an appearance of two different brush writings. Also they all are inspired by prints of Martin Schongauer. In spite of this Master MS can not be identified with any of masters of the Hohenlandenberg altar workshop but he is probably another one who can be joined with it. It should be emphasised that the members of the workshop of Master MS are of different origin, probably from the Danube school region. Different styles of the panel paintings of Master MS should be defined on the base of different origin of master and members of his workshop.