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Painting and Graphic Art

The Peter Rot altar (closed)

Key data

Circle of Bartholomaus Ruthenzweig, Basle, ca. 1476/84

Tempera on pinewood panel

109.5 x 96 cm (closed)

Inv. 1978.322.


From the furnishings of the Basle Barfusserkirche only one work, the Late Gothic winged altar bearing the name of its donor, Peter Rot, a mayor of Basle, has survived the Reformation and the iconoclasm of 1529. Its programme of imagery gives pride of place, in the Franciscan tradition, to the Virgin and specifically reflects the debate being carried on at the time it was painted over the dogma of the Immaculate Conception; the coats of arms of the two donors, Rot and his wife of the Rumlang family, allude to it even in their heraldic devices, the rose and the unicorn. The Virgin in her aureole, between the archangels Gabriel and Michael - symbolizing the gate of paradise - occupies the centre panel, flanked by 30 saints on the insides of the wings. On the outside panels (shown) the miracle of the Resurrection follows Schongauer's engraving produced about 1475; nevertheless Christ's having risen through a closed tomb slab is a symbolic allusion to His incarnation in the Virgin's womb. This rare example of Late Gothic panel painting from Basle illustrates not only the direct influence of Schongauer from nearby Colmar, but also - in the 'borrowing' of the Archangel Michael from a work by Colijn de Coter - the assimilation of Netherlandish models by a Basle workshop.

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