Dated 1512; workshop of Ivo Strigel, Christoph Zeller and other masters, Memmingen
Linden wood, carved and painted, panel painting
H 375 cm, W 567 cm (open)
Mounted on a predella showing Christ with the twelve Apostles, the open altar chest contains a statue of the Virgin Mary flanked by scenes from her life. Four of these scenes are sculpted in the round, while eight are relief carvings. The rear of the chest and the wings are panel paintings showing the four Evangelists and eight saints. This Late Gothic altarpiece from Calanca, the main town in the Calanca Valley, has been preserved in its original form and provides impressive proof of the importance of the Strigel workshop. This workshop from southern Swabia exported its large carved altarpieces deep into the Alps, even as far as the borders of the Italian-speaking regions. Several different artists worked on the various sections of this particular piece. The figure of the Virgin Mary is believed to be one of the best works made by Christoph Zeller, a student of Hans Herlin. When the altarpiece was purchased for Basel’s medieval collection from the parish of St. Mary’s in 1887, it was described in glowing terms as “the largest and artistically most important altarpiece on Swiss soil after the high altar of the Cathedral of Chur”.