Thursday, August 12, 2010

Durer Altarpiece Unveiled 21 Years After Acid Attack

Virgin unveiled after acid attack

Exhibition in Dresden reunites Dürer painting with altarpiece following a 21-year restoration

By Martin Bailey

The Virgin of Sorrows in 1988 after acid was thrown at it (left) and in the ensemble today

LONDON. A panel from Dürer’s first major altarpiece has been restored after a 21-year treatment following a devastating acid attack in Munich. The Virgin of Sorrows has been unveiled in Dresden, where it was reunited with the rest of the altarpiece of the Seven Sorrows for the first time in nearly five centuries.

Dürer painted the Seven Sorrows and the Seven Joys of the Virgin in 1496, at the age of 25. It may have been commissioned by Frederick the Wise for his palace church at Wittenberg. The altarpiece was probably dismem­bered during the Refor­mation, and the seven panels of the Sorrows (of the life of Christ) passed to the artist Lucas Cranach the Younger, whose father had been a court painter. In 1588 Cranach’s estate sold them to the Saxon art collection in Dresden, and they later went to the city’s Gemäldegalerie.


It was not until 1934 that German art historian Ernst Buchner suggested that the Munich and Dresden panels had originally formed part of the same altarpiece. However, they were never brought together for a temporary display. This was initially because of the Second World War, then the division of Germany, and finally the acid attack.


In Dresden, the individual panels of the Seven Sorrows and the Virgin of Sorrows are being presented together in a temporary frame, giving an idea of their original appearance. Following the display in the exhibition “State of the Art” (until 7 November), the central panel will return to Munich, where it will once again be presented with the gallery’s other Dürers.

Read the entire article: The Art Newspaper

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: