The Picture as Prayer Book
We have arrived at the fifth decade of the 15th century, a period of transition from the Middle Ages to the early Modern Era. Cologne has become a loud, cramped, densely populated city. Although there were any number of parish and collegiate churches in Cologne – not to mention the unfinished cathedral – the growing self-assurance of the ruling classes led to a need to practice religion in more exclusive settings, away from common worship. This led to the production of small illustrated prayer books as aids to private spiritual contemplation, as well as to small-size devotional paintings such as the work at the centre of this room created by Stefan Lochner
Recent research has revealed that this painting is the left wing of a diptych, which could be folded together like a book. How else is one to explain the painted rear side? Probably the right wing, which, sadly, is lost, bore the portrait of the work’s commissioner, accompanied by his patron saint.
This room also contains a number of other panel paintings done by artists from Stefan Lochner’s background or circle. His most important precursors were the “Master of St Veronica“ and the “Master of St Lawrence“. These two painters worked together on the “Madonna with the Sweet-pea Blossom“. The gold grounds in the three panels that make up this triptych were decorated by three craftsmen working concurrently: evidently there was a deadline to be met!