The Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California, has acquired a painting, The Trinity with the Virgin, Sts John the Evangelist, Stephen and Lawrence and a Donor, dated 1479 and attributed to the acclaimed stained-glass artist Peter Hemmel von Andlau (c.1420/25 – after 1501). The altarpiece was devised for a donor, who is shown in the painting kneeling in prayer on the left, in diminutive scale, directing his pleas to the image of the Trinity – an immense and resplendently robed figure of God seated on a carved-stone throne with the crucified Christ and the Holy Spirit. The central figures are flanked by a grieving Virgin and St John the Evangelist. The presence of two important deacon saints, Stephen and Lawrence, confirms the clerical status of the donor. St Stephen, identified by the rocks with which he was martyred, looks protectively down at the donor and is presumed to be the donor’s namesake.
In the late Middle Ages, the city of Strasbourg (today in France), then as now a crossroads between German and French territories, was a thriving artistic centre as well as a bustling commercial hub. At least eight workshops provided patrons across the neighbouring regions with stained glass, panel paintings, wood and stone sculpture, and engravings. The Strasbourg workshop co-operative (Straßburger Werkstattgemeinschaft) was an extraordinary partnership was formed for a period of four years (c.1477–81) between five of Strasbourg’s leading independent workshops of glass-painters, headed by Peter Hemmel von Andlau (c.1420/25 – after 1501), Lienhart Spitznagel, Hans von Maursmünster (fl. 1475–1503), Theobald von Lixheim (d. before 1507), and Werner Störe, to co-operate in the production of large and important stained-glass commissions. Distinguished by high-quality and nuanced painting, individualized figures, and brilliant use of colour, the signature manner of the co-operative reflects the direct influences of leading contemporary Upper Rhine painters and engravers, notably the Master of the Karlsruhe Passion (fl. 1435–65), the Master E.S. (fl. 1450–67), and Martin Schongauer (c.1435 – 1491), as well as the elegant naturalism of the Netherlandish painters Rogier van der Weyden (c.1399 – 1464) and Dieric Bouts (c.1415 – 1475). The co-operative produced an astonishing amount of large- and small-scale stained glass for churches in Tübingen (the Stiftskirche), Ulm (the minster), Nuremberg (the St.-Lorenzkirche), Salzburg (the Nonnberg Convent), Munich (the Liebfrauenkirche), and many other cities.
Peter Hemmel, generally considered one of the most extraordinary glass-painters of the late fifteenth century, was a senior member of the Strasbourg workshop co-operative. Although no panel paintings have previously been ascribed to Hemmel himself convincingly, The Trinity shows affinities with the sophisticated stained-glass projects attributed to him. Hemmel’s work has often been associated with bold, saturated fields of colour, notably purple, that create a glowing, jewel-like effect, which is one of the outstanding features of the present painting. The painting also features the elegant, individualized and dynamic figures associated with the artist.
The painting has joined the other masterpieces of German Gothic art in the Getty collection, which include stained glass.