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a double-sided altarpiece panelinner side: the dormition of the virginouter side: christ carrying the cross

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Hans Schäufelein, a double-sided altarpiece panel\ninner side: the dormition of the virgin\nouter side: christ carrying the cross\nTempera and oil on panel, made up of several vertical planks of pine\n139.5 by 135 cm.; 55 by 53 1/8 in.


This double sided panel is one of four similar works that were painted largely by Hans Schäufelein in the workshop of Hans Holbein the Elder in Augsburg in circa 1509-10.    They were intended as the wings of an altarpiece, probably for a church in Augsburg, and it is thought that the panels came from there in the first third of the 19th Century.  The outer sides depict four scenes from The Passion of Christ, and the inner sides depict scenes from the Infancy and Youth of Christ and the Dormition of the Virgin, or to put it differently, scenes from The Life of the Virgin.  Schäufelein's authorship of these panels has long been recognised, but more recently it has been suggested by Christof Metzger that although the inner sides are entirely Schäufelein's work, the outer sides, which are rougher in character, may be in part by a hand known as the Master of Engerda, then working in Holbein's workshop.1

All four panels are painted on pinewood panels prepared with linen(they were originally prepared this way, not marouflaged later), and the variation in their sizes is probably due to the circumstances of the dismemberment of the altarpiece.2   The four panels comprising the altarpiece and their current locations are as follows, in order of narrative:

THE NATIVITY (inner side)


122.5 by 134.5 cm

Hamburg, Kunsthalle, inv. nos. 150, 151.  The two halves of the panel have been split.



143.2 by 136 cm

Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, inv. no. 3213



138.3 by 133.4 cm.

Gateshead, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, Shipley Art Gallery, inv. no. G 1186



139.5 by 134 cm.

The present lot

Hans Schäufelein was a painter, draftsman and designer of woodcuts and stained glass, and one of the key figures in the German Renaissance.3  He was active in the workshop of Albrecht Dürer in Nuremberg from circa 1503 to 1507, and he is rightly considered to be, with Hans von Kulmbach and Hans Baldung Grien, one of Dürer's three principal pupils.  We know what he looked like from his intimate self-portrait, drawn in greasy black chalk as he rests his chin on his left hand, looking into a mirror (see Fig. 1).4  This drawing dates from around 1510, the same date as the present double-sided panel.

Following his departure from Dürer's workshop in 1507, he journeyed to the South Tyrol, where he remained until circa 1509.  From 1509 until circa 1513 he was in Augsburg, and for most of this time, and certainly for the first few years, he worked in the workshop of Hans Holbein the Elder.  From circa 1513 to his death more than twenty-five years later he lived in Nördlingen in Swabia, which was probably his birthplace.

It is generally believed that Schäufelein painted the inner sides of the set of four panels (of which the present lot is one) by himself, while in Hans Holbein the Elder's workshop, in circa 1509-10.  As Roberts & Wiemann point out, they are painted with his characteristic soft and thin-glazed style, with beautifully modelled figures.5 The heads are particularly beautiful, and are reminiscent of Schäufelein's drawings: all of them in the present panel, except perhaps the group of three in the upper left corner, are clearly from his hand, and the crisply modelled drapery is in stark contrast to that of the Passion scene on the reverse.  The influence of Albrecht Dürer is clearly apparent, and is in stark contrast with the dryer style of Hans Holbein.  The evidence of drawings copied from presumed lost originals by Hans Holbein the Elder suggest that the overall compositions may have been initially devised by Holbein, but were substantially altered by Schäufelein in adapting them to the painted panels, so much so that their compositions bear scant resemblance.6 Schäufelein's Nativity panel for example is loosely based on Dürer's Paumgartner altarpiece, from which Schäufelein has taken the figure of Joseph, and the compositional elements of all four panels are Düreresque in a manner that would be inconceivable within the radically different older Holbein tradition.

This is not the case with the four outer sides of the panels with scenes from the Passion of Christ.  Drawings with coloured wash attributable to Holbein the Elder's Workshop but most likely copies of lost originals, correspond closely to the compositions of the Flagellation, Crowning with Thorns and the present Christ Carrying the Cross, which suggests that the designs were determined by Holbein, as head of the workshop.7 Schäufelein probably played a major part in their execution, however.  Christof Metzger attributes a number of figures in the four outer sides of the panels entirely to Schäufelein, including the henchmen in the present Christ Carrying the Cross.  The present writer thinks that the head of Christ as well as the head of the figure in a monk's habit helping to hold the shaft of the Cross are also both highly characteristic of Schäufelein, (as are the head of Christ and those of two of his tormentors in the Flagellation panel).

One possibility is that Holbein's workshop assistant (or more probably assistants) started these sides of the panel, and then Schäufelein intervened to correct and finish them.  The workshop assistant suggested by Christof Metzger as principally responsible for the outer panel sides is a hand known as the Master of Engerda, after an altarpiece in the parish church of Engerda in Thuringia.8 It is his figural style by which he has been defined – monumental figures with voluminous costumes and bulging hems.

Although it was customary for the leader of a Workshop which still functioned largely along medieval lines such as that of Hans Holbein the Elder to delegate large parts of the execution of altarpieces to others – woodcarvers, carpenters and gilders as well as painters -  it is not clear why these panels should be to such a large degree characteristic of Schäufelein, despite the Holbeinesque compositions of the Passion sides.  One possibility is that the altarpiece was executed to a greater degree under Schäufelein's direction while Holbein was travelling to Alsace.9  It must be remembered that Schäufelein was not admitted to the Guild in Augsburg, and thus had to be accepted in to a workshop to work, a situation not rectified until his move to Nördlingen three or four years after he painted the present panel.10


Pugin, high priest of the Gothic revival in England, was the architect of St Chad's RC Cathedral in Birmingham,  erected between 1839 and 1841, which he consciously modelled on North German 14th Century Gothic precursors.  It was decorated with medieval German and Netherlandish statuary in wood and stone.  Hardman & Co. supplied some of the stained glass windows, including the much-praised North Transept window of 1868.  In 1837 Pugin met John Hardman (1812-1867), a Birmingham button-maker and medallist, who was to become his closest friend and colleague, and in the following year started to commission metalwork from him, and from 1845 onwards stained glass.  The connection between Pugin, Hardman and St Chad's explains why Hardman's heirs placed the present panel, given to him by Pugin, on loan there from 1927 until its sale in 1970.

1.  See under Literature.  Metzger's view was repeated more recently by Roberts & Wiemann (see Literature).

2.  Idem, p. 376.

3   He used to be known as Hans Leonhard Schäufelein, but there is no evidence for the middle name, which is no longer used.  His signature incorporates below his monogram a small shovel, which alludes to his surname (literally "little shovel").

4.  Signed in monogram, black chalk and later grey wash on paper, 177 by 127 mm.  From the Springell collection, sold, London, Sotheby's, 30 June 1986, lot 48.

5.  Idem, pp. 381-2.

6.  See Metzger under Literature, pp. 286-7, and Roberts & Wiemann, op. cit., p. 381.  The Marienleben drawings include The Adoration of the Magi and The Death of the Virgin in Augsburg, Städtische Kunstsammlungen, Graphissche Sammlung, inv. nos. G 4673-70, G4675-70, and The Nativity in Coburg, , Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg, inv. no. Z 129; see also N. Lieb & A. Stange, Hans Holbein der Ältere, Munich/Berlin 1960, p. 80, nos. 102-105, reproduced fig. 181.

7.  See D. Roberts in E. Wiemann under Literature, pp. 306-9, reproduced figs 68-70.  The three drawings are in Augsburg, Kunstsammlungen und Museen Augsburg, Grafische Sammlungen, inv. nos. G 4676-70 – G4678-70.

8.  See Metzger, op. cit., p. 288, & Roberts & Wiemann, op. cit., p. 386.

9.  Idem, p. 386.

10.  Idem, p. 387.


Tempera and oil on panel, made up of several vertical planks of pine


Hans Schäufelein


Birmingham, St. Chad's Roman Catholic Cathedral, (St Edward's Chapel), on long-term loan 1927-1969;

London, Dyer, 1954;

Munich, Kunstmesse, 1978;

Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, Hans Holbein d.Ä. Die Graue Passion in ihrer Zeit, 27 November 2010 - 20 March 2011, no. 124.


139.5 by 135 cm.; 55 by 53 1/8 in.


E. Buchner, `Der Junge Schäufelein als Maler und Zeichner', in Festschrift für Max J. Friedländer zum 60. Geburtstag, 1927, p. 71;

C. Beutler & G. Thiem, Hans Holbein d. Ä.  Die Spätgotische Altar- und Glasmalerei, Augsburg 1960, pp. 71ff, 108ff;

P. Strieder, in Mitteilungen des Vereins für Geschichte der Stadt Nürnberg, 1960, pp. 98ff;

Meister um Albrecht Dürer, Nuremberg 1961, p. 23;

P. Strieder, `Masters in the Circle of Albrecht Dürer', in The Connoisseur, 148, August 1961, pp. 43-5;

P. Strieder, `Hans Holbein der Ältere zwischen Spätgotik und Renaissance.  Zu den neuen Publikationen über den Künstler', in Pantheon, 19, 1961, pp. 98-100;

N. Pevsner & A. Wedgwood, The Buildings of England, Warwickshire, Harmondsworth 1966, p. 112 (as Attributed to Dürer);

T. Falk, `Notizien zur Augburger Malerwerkstatt des älteren Holbein', in Zeitschrift für Kunstwissenschaft, 30, 1976, p. 16;

C. Baur, `Die Tafelbilder', in G. Bauer (ed.), Der Hochaltar der Schwabacher Stadtkirche, Schwabach 1983, p. 100;

S. Weih-Krüger, `Hans Schäufelein.  Ein Beitrag zur künstlerischen Entwicklung des jungen Hans Schäufelein...,' in Das Münster, vol. 41, 1988, p. 60;

P. Strieder, `Dokumente und Überlegungen zum Weg Hans Schäufeleins...', in Hans Schäufelein. Vorträge, gehalten anlässlich des Nördlinger Symposiums ..., Nördlingen 1990, pp. 262ff;

E. Rettich, in R. Klapproth (ed.) Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Alte Meister, Stuttgart 1992, pp. 383-6;

L. Altmann, `Schäufelin, Hans' in R. Bäumer & L. Scheffczyk (ed.), Marienlexikon, vol. 5, St. Ottilien 1993, pp. 692ff;

J.O. Hand, German Paintings of the Fifteenth through Seventeenth Centuries (National Gallery, Washington, Systematic catalogue), Washington and Cambridge 1993,  p. 164, n13;

C. Baer, Die italienischen Bau- und Ornamentformen in der Augsburger Kunst zi Beginn des 16. Jahrhunderts, Frankfurt-am-Main  1993, pp. 169ff;

P. Strieder, Tafelmalerei in Nürnberg 1350-1550, Königstein im Taunus 1993, p. 146;

B. Butts, in J. Turner (ed.), The Dictionary of Art, vol. 28, London 1996, p. 58;

C. Metzger, Hans Schäufelin als Maler, Berlin 2002, pp. 278-290, no. 17d & 17h, reproduced plates 137 & 138, p. 282, fig. 196 & 287, fig. 200;

D. Roberts & E. Wiemann, in E. Wiemann (ed.),  Hans Holbein d.Ä. Die Graue Passion in ihrer Zeit, exhibition catalogue, Stuttgart 2010, pp. 376-387, no. 124, reproduced p. 379, 383; also D. Roberts, idem, p. 306.


Said to be Art market, Munich, 1830s;

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, London, by whom acquired in Munich;

By whom given to John T. Hardman, Birmingham;

By whose heirs lent to St. Chad's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Birmingham, 1927-1969;

By descent to his grandson, H.G. Rowland, Birmingham or Cheltenham;

By whom sold, London, Christie's, 26 June 1970, lot 52, for 10,000 Guineas to Holstein;

With Xaver Scheidwimmer, Munich, 1970;

Georg Schäfer, Schweinfurt;

With Xaver Scheidwimmer, Munich;

From whom acquired by the present owner in 1978.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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