This painting depicting the meeting of the Saints Erasmus and Maurice is one of the most accomplished works by Matthias Grünewald (1470-1528). Grünewald was an important painter of his age who used great vividness in his works to reflect the visionary expressiveness of their religious content. Cardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg, the elector of Mainz, commissioned this piece in 1514 as part of his renovation plans for the monastery of Halle. Part of the refurbishment included moving relics of Saint Maurice from Magdeburg to Halle, hoping it would increase German pilgrimage to the city.
This elaborate and beautifully executed oil panel depicts the meeting of two important figures relevant to the city and its ruler. Saint Maurice was the patron saint of the monastery while Saint Erasmus was the patron saint of Albrecht’s royal household. The latter, also known as Elmo, was the bishop of Formiae, Capagna, in Italy. Legend has it that Saint Erasmus escaped the persecution of Christians, fleeing to Mount Lebanon where he was fed by a raven. After being discovered, he was thrown into prison. He was rescued by an angel only to later suffer a martyr’s death.
The artist has used the commissioner Albrecht as a model for Saint Erasmus’ facial features. The figure wears a heavily decorated religious robe and holds his attribute, a windlass, in his right hand. The wooden panel depicts the theme of religious discussion and debate, an important theme for this period of German art.
Source: Matthias Grünewald, Die hll. Erasmus und Mauritius (ca. 1520-24), Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen – Alte Pinakothek Munich, Inventarnummer 1044.
The meeting of Saints Erasmus and Maurice (c. 1520-24) by Julia Alcamo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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