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Golden Background and Heavenly Light
Medieval Art in Hamburg

19. November 1999 to 5. March2000
in der Galerie of Old Masters


Absolon Stumme

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Absolon Stumme

Sponsored by
ZEIT- Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius.


In winter 1999, the Hamburg Kunsthalle and the Museum of Hamburg History will present the first ever large exhibition on the subject of art in Hamburg during the Middle Ages. The focal point of the exhibition will be the polyptych main altar from Hamburg Cathedral, which was pulled down in 1806. The altar was recently rediscovered in Poland and is currently being restored in a Polish-German workshop project. It was originally made in 1499 in the workshop of the Hamburg painter Absolon Stumme.

The history of painting in Hamburg began with Master Bertram, whose "Petri-Altar", created between 1379 and 1383, is one of the most prized works in the Hamburg Kunsthalle collection. In the period 1420-1430 Master Francke was a Dominican friar in Hamburg. During the second half of the 15th century, numerous altars associated with many different artists were produced for Hamburg and the surrounding area in one single workshop, headed by a succession of masters such as Hans and Hinrick Bornemann or Hinrich Funhof.

Craftsmen of many different trades were involved in making the shrines, carved sculptures, decorative panels and gildings. These artisans were organized in guilds, and the exhibition aims to provide insight into the medieval guild system in Hamburg. It will also focus on various aspects of medieval piety, such as the veneration of the Virgin, the workshop of relics or the importance of donation. Altars are found in churches, and the donation of an altarpiece was thought to be a way of attaining salvation in the afterlife. The believer thought that by performing good deeds he could be saved, or at least survive purgatory and then be allowed into heaven. The Reformation called these fundamental beliefs into question, and the altars gradually lost their original significance.

A number of noted experts have contributed to the exhibition catalogue, making it an excellent handbook of art in Hamburg during the late Middle Ages.

Hamburger Kunsthalle Glockengießerwall 20095 Hamburg
Telephone 040 - 428 131 200 Facsimile 040 - 428 54 34 09