Sankt Wolfgang Altarpiece by Michael Pacher

Sankt Wolfgang Altarpiece by Michael Pacher
Sankt Wolfgang Altarpiece by Michael Pacher

This altarpiece located in the parish church of Sankt Wolfgang in Austria is a magnificent example of how the Flaming Gothic spread widely throughout northern and central Europe. Since it must be taken into account that while the sculptor and painter Michael Pacher was making this work between 1471 and 1480, in Italy it had already been more than 20 years since Lorenzo Ghiberti had made the Doors of the Florence Baptistery Paradise or Verrocchio was doing some of his masterpieces like his David.


Sankt Wolfgang Altarpiece by Michale Pacher

In fact, Flamboyant Gothic lasted in certain territories until the first decades of the 16th century. And it can be said that the style ended up disappearing due to exhaustion, since the forms were becoming more and more complicated, in an eagerness for the ornamental and the virtuosity that seems to be a competition between artists to see who makes the most ornate work and complex. A spirit that reached all artistic disciplines: architecture, sculpture, painting, goldsmithing, stained glass, etc…

An example of this is this Austrian altarpiece dedicated to Saint Wolfgang which is preserved intact in his church in theSalzkammergut district. A work done byMichel Pacher(c. 1435 – 1498), a very interesting artist, since he worked both in painting and sculpture, engraving or architecture ofwood. And of all his production, his great masterpiece is this altarpiece.

It combines amazing wood carvings, plagued with the forms of the gothic, with the painted tables in which it is seen that the author knows the works of theItalian Renaissance, and introduces elements such as perspectives, the monumentality of the figures or a sumptuous color. In fact, Pacher is considered the introducer of Renaissance art in these latitudes, and on more than one occasion his painting has been considered at a similar level to that of Andrea Mantegna, author of works as incredible as The Lamentation over the Dead Christ or the Altarpiece of Saint Zeno.

Furthermore, both in his painting and in his sculpture there are certain traits that characterize the whole ofPacher's workand that make him a true master of epoch. And the fact is that if we pay attention he presents us with scenes of great dynamism, loaded with a dramatic tone that sometimes leads him to pose very audacious foreshortenings in the characters, who always have great realism.

In the photo we see the altarpiece open, showing the carving inside, but it was only visible on the most important dates of the religious calendar. And it is that showing it was intended to impress the faithful, as it can surprise us viewers.

There we see an impressive sculptural relief with the theme of the Coronation of the Virgin. An almost pictorial and dynamic relief, thanks to the polychromy on the wood. A work without a doubt spectacular.

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