Stefan Lochner – a Fragile Identity
When Albrecht Dürer came and spent two weeks in Cologne in 1520, within a few days he had one particular artwork shown to him twice – in exchange for a trip: “I have given 3 silver pennies, and again 2 silver pennies to have the painting opened up that master Steffan of Cologne has done.“ Since 1823 this has been identified as the “Altar oft he City Patrons“, which is now in the keeping of the cathedral. The “Master Stefan“ Dürer mentions has been established as the painter Stefan Lochner, who is to be found in the city’s records, and an entire oeuvre has been worked out on the basis of stylistic comparisons with the cathedral painting. This historical construction cannot be proved in all certainty, but it remains highly plausible. With that the name Stefan Lochner has remained synonymous the world over with the quality and radiance of mediaeval painting in Cologne.
It appears that Lochner was born c. 1400/1410 by Lake Constance. But rather than taking inspiration from the local painting, his main influence was Netherlandish art. He skillfully combined the naturalism of Flemish painting with the charm and mystical spirit found in Cologne paintings, such as those by the Master of St Veronica. Lochner is first known to have worked in Cologne in 1442 as a decorative painter. Two years later he purchased two houses at considerable expense. They were in the corner of Quatermarkt/In der Höhle, just a stone’s throw from the present museum. After Lochner and his wife Lisbeth fell prey to the terrible plague epidemic of 1451, the magnificent double house was signed over to a creditor in early 1452. Later it was to become the home of other painters, such as Bartholomäus Bruyn the elder (Gallery 13).