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Archive: 2001

Gallery acquires medieval triptych

The National Gallery of Australia has acquired a major 16th century altarpiece Triptych of the Virgin and Child with Saints.

Painted by artists of the renowned Cologne School of painting, the work dates from 1510-20 – the end of the great era of painters at Cologne.

Details of the gallery’s latest acquisition, which was purchased with funds from private benefactors, were announced today by the Director of the National Gallery, Dr Brian Kennedy.

Cologne School c.1510-20

Cologne School c.1510-20 Triptych of the Virgin and Child with Saints oil on panel: 126.5 x 350.5 x 6.0 cm National Gallery of Australia purchased with the assistance of James O. Fairfax AO and the Nerissa Johnson bequest 2001

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“This is a most impressive and beautiful picture,” he said. “The charm and elegance of the female Saints, the attractive floral setting, the distant view of town and country and the mixture of cool and vibrant colours will assure wide popular appeal.”

The altarpiece depicts the Virgin and Child enthroned within an enclosed garden, flanked by musical angels and six female martyr saints.

Only 400 or so paintings from the Cologne school have survived – about three percent of its original production.

“Cologne School paintings are renowned for their magnificent rich colours, extravagant decoration, and brilliant narrative skills,” Dr Kennedy said.

“The Triptych is a splendid example of the late flowering of the German Gothic altarpiece at the height of the Italian Renaissance. The painting celebrates the important role of the Saints, not just as protectors and patrons, but also as mediators interceding with God on behalf of the devoted believer,” he said.

Dr Kennedy acknowledged the generous financial support of James O. Fairfax AO in helping to acquire the Triptych.

“We offer, as so often before, our deepest appreciation to James Fairfax for his kindness,” Dr. Kennedy said.

The Gallery has purchased the painting through the munificence of the Nerissa Johnson Bequest, from its funds specified for European paintings, as well as with Mr Fairfax’s assistance.

Triptych of the Virgin and Child with Saints goes on public display at the National Gallery of Australia on 24 March 2001.

For further information contact the Public Affairs Office, National Gallery of Australia:
phone +61 2 6240 6431