The first monograph on Stefan Lochner since 1938, this is a beautifully-produced volume in Maryan Ainsworth’s admirable Me fecit. series with excellent color and many detailed photographs. The author, Associate Curator in the Department of Medieval Art at The Cloisters, has written a magisterial work, developed over a number of years since his dissertation on Lochner’s underdrawings. In addition to the new and sometimes surprising information that infrared reflectography and dendrochronology have revealed, he has made a thorough review of the historiography of Lochner studies since the nineteenth century, placing them in the context of German cultural and political history in general from Friedrich Schlegel to Hans Belting, and of the history of Cologne in particular.
Reflectograms of Lochner’s works compared with those of earlier Cologne painters now prove conclusively that Lochner must have come to Cologne already fully trained. His elaborate, three-dimensional underdrawing style, complete with color notations, is without precedent in Cologne painting, where an absolute minimum of underdrawing was used by everyone save Lochner’s own followers. The artist who painted the Heisterbach Altarpiece, rather than either Lochner’s teacher or his youthful alter ego as formerly suggested, appears now a likelier candidate for journeyman in Lochner’s shop, since he is shown to have had access to Lochner’s own press-brocade mold, but still used in combination with the older underdrawing technique native to Cologne. Lochner’s 1447 application for Cologne citizenship, made at the time of his election to the city council, presupposes the period of residence in the city of at least ten years required by local statute. A recent discovery proves that the Altarpiece of the Patron Saints, long known as the Dombild, was commissioned in 1435, and was seen in place in the city hall in about 1440 by the Lüneberg painter Hans Bornemann. This lays to rest both Brigitte Corley’s Dombild Master, as well as Michael Wolfson’s justifiable concern for the leap of faith required in identifying the Dombild as the triptych by ‘Meister Steffan’ that Albrecht Dürer paid to view, since Dürer mentioned neither the subject nor the location of the work. Chaphuis presents other strong circumstantial evidence for the identification of Lochner’s Dombild as the city hall commission, for the Ratskapelle, built on the site of the former synagogue (1426, built two years after the expulsion of the city’s Jews) was dedicated to St. Mary in Jerusalem, and the council had long held papal permission to have Mass celebrated before its meetings. The iconography of the patron saints, Ursula, Gereon and the Magi constituted a specific statement of civic pride, and underscored Cologne’s role as a holy city. Chaphuis surmises that Lochner had seen the Ghent Altarpiece before going to Cologne, noting the influence of the Van Eyck Holy Virgins in the Ursula panel of the Dombild.Rather than postulate a period of training in an Eyckian workshop, however, as Otto Förster (1923) had done, he theorizes that Lochner may initially have been trained in a goldsmith’s workshop instead – a not unreasonable suggestion in light of the careers of such artists as Botticelli and Albrecht Dürer. He notes, furthermore, that Lochner’s style of precise rendering of three-dimensional objects sets an important precedent for Martin Schongauer’s modeling system, and that Lochner’s brilliant color and porcelain-like flesh tones have their counterparts in émail en ronde-brosse, rather than in painting.
Reflectography sheds valuable new light on the extent of collaboration that must have gone on in Lochner’s workshop, for some of his most elaborate underdrawings underlie portions of the Dombild that were completed in the painting stage by an assistant. It also reveals passages in which Lochner seems to have turned over the underdrawing to an assistant, whose work the artist himself then corrected in the paint layers. Dendrochronology makes it clear that the Raleigh St. Jerome, formerly seen as a piece linking Lochner to early training in Flanders, must have been painted after 1439, and the reflectograms show underdrawing totally unrelated to Lochner.
The book includes a complete catalogue of the paintings and their related works, as well as appendices comprising Truus van Bueren’s modern English translations of the documents, including those previously brought to light by J.J. Merlo and Carl Aldenhoven.
Jane Campbell Hutchison
University of Wisconsin-Madison