active second half of the 15th century
The Master of the Life of the Virgin executed a large altarpiece with eighteen panels illustrating the life of the Virgin commissioned by Doctor Johann Schwartz-Hirtz for the Church of St Ursula in Cologne in 1463. The Visitation, one of the panels of the altarpiece, typifies his style with the tall, stately figures of Mary, Elizabeth, and a maid placed sedately in a broad landscape. The donor kneels in the lower left corner with his elaborate coat of arms. The composition resembles that of Rogier van der Weyden’s Visitation with the landscape and figures stretched out from a vertical to a horizontal format, but the gold sky and the flying blue angels remind us the Cologne precursors of the master.
The painter is named after the series of eight panels showing episodes from the life of the Virgin from the church of St Ursula in Cologne. The National Gallery’s ‘Presentation in the Temple’ is one of these panels: the remainder are in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich. Other panels are linked with the Master largely on stylistic grounds.
The influence of Bouts can be seen in these panels of the life of the Virgin, as can that of Rogier van der Weyden and it is thus likely that the artist was trained in the Netherlands.
Chronologically the artist occupies a place in the history of painting in Cologne between Lochner, who died in 1451, and the painter known as the Master of the Saint Bartholomew Altarpiece, who was active from about 1470. The panels of the life of the Virgin are likely to be relatively early works, possibly of the early 1460s.