Collectors and Donors
United again after more than two hundred years. The Altarpiece of St. Anne by the Master of Frankfurt.
An odyssey lasting more than two hundred years has finally ended for Saints Odile and Cecilia. The historisches museum frankfurt has succeeded in purchasing the panel depicting the two saints – missing since the secularization of Frankfurt (around 1803) – from a private owner in America.
It is part of the over five-hundred-year-old Altarpiece of St. Anne by the Master of Frankfurt, one of the most prominent Flemish painters of the period around 1500. Once the pièce de résistance in the „collection” of Grand Duke Carl Theodor von Dalberg of Frankfurt (1744-1817), the reconstructed altarpiece is on view in the new permanent exhibition „Collectors and Donors of Frankfurt” in the renovated Saalhof.
Commissioned by an unknown patron and executed around 1504 by the Master of Frankfurt and his Antwerp workshop for the altar of St. Anne in the Dominican Church of Frankfurt, the triptych is an outstanding artwork of the waning Middle Ages. At the same time, however, it is also a testimony to the long and turbulent history of the collection of the city of Frankfurt. In its closed state, the altarpiece displays four panels depicting two saints each – Agnes and Lucy, Martin of Tours and Valentine, Joseph with the Christ Child and Gregory the Great, and Odile and Cecilia – rendered in grisaille. When opened, the central panel displays the Holy Family and the two wings the Birth and Death of the Virgin. The predella panels likewise painted in the grisaille technique and positioned beneath the central panel show the Flight into Egypt and the Massacre of the Innocents.
Within the context of a "profane" presentation of the altarpiece towards the end of the eighteenth century, the altarpiece's panels were separated, the wing panels being split down the middle on the occasion. The predella paintings as well as the grisaille depiction of Saints Odile and Cecilia were soon lost. The remainder of the altarpiece was purchased by Carl Theodor von Dalberg, Grand Duke of Frankfurt, and in 1809 bequeathed to the „Frankfurter Museum” newly founded at the time by the Frankfurter Museumsgesellschaft (Frankfurt Museum Society) – the predecessor to the present-day historisches museum frankfurt.
The two predella panels have been in the holdings of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart since 1898. The outer panel with Saints Odile and Cecilia, however, travelled great distances before finally being purchased for the historisches museum frankfurt in a remarkable manner. Having been in the collection of the art dealer Jacques Goudstikker of Amsterdam since 1929, during World War II it made its way into the possession of the Dutch government. Marei von Saher (New York), an heir to Goudstikker, effected the restitution of the painting by Holland in 2006 and offered it to the historische museum frankfurt for sale. Thanks to the generous contributions of several foundations (the Kulturstiftung der Länder, Berlin; the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung, Munich; the Hessische Kulturstiftung, Wiesbaden and the Ernst Max von Grunelius-Stiftung, Frankfurt am Main), the financing of the purchase was finally achieved in 2011, and the two saints returned to their native city.