Attributed to Peter FLÖTNER (Thurgau ca. 1490 - Nuremberg 1546)
Project with variants for the frame of an altarpiece
Pen and brown and black inks, brown wash over black pencil lines.
Monogrammed later in the lower center "GP" for Georg Pencz.
Inscription on the reverse: numerous annotations in German specifying the location of the main figures of the altarpiece. Approximate translation, from top to bottom:
1- This sketch of a painting must be done ...several things are expressed at the base
2 - ?
3 - The child Jesus must wear a shield with a bishop's hat and a sceptre on the shield, a coat of arms (as of the time?)
4 - The death of Our Lady or the ascension
5 - This angel must ... wear a coat of arms (towards yes after)
6 - surround this column with ...
7 - The wise men
8 - We must ...
9 - Saint Thomas of Kandelbergh (perhaps Thomas Becket, bishop of Canterbury?)
10 - Here we must put the coat of arms
11 - Here we must put the coat of arms
12 - This sketch (vision) is made in two ways in which I had the grace to show and that one must execute with care (application)
13- The scale (elbows) 60 cm approximately...
Under the altarpiece, indistinct old inscription
(Lined with a japanese paper, restored lacks, small spots and folds).
49,5 x 32 cm
Originally from the Lake Constance region, Flötner moved to Nuremberg in 1522. He introduced the ornamental invention of the Italian Renaissance to Germany. Sculptor, engraver, designer, he successfully imposed his Italian style in the decorative arts: architectural motifs, furniture, frames, sculpture. Our drawing repeats in the upper part of the altarpiece an identical tympanum motif that appears in one of his prints, dated around 1540-41 (see : E.F. Bange, Peter Flötner, Leipzig, Klinkhardt and Biermann Publishers, no. 49, reproduced. A copy of the engraving is kept in the Bibliothèque Nationale). The style of the figures, which recalls the influence of Holbein, is typical of his known drawings.
Another altarpiece frame design (ca. 1530-35, in the Erlangen University Library) shows a similar, though stricter, Italianate order (see the exhibition catalog Gothic and Renaissance Art in Nuremberg, 1300-1550, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, Prestel-Verlag, Munich, 1986, no. 247, reproduced, p.437).
The extravagance of Flötner's design, which mixes familiar motifs from his work - dolphins, a procession of lovers, ivy climbing up the columns, figures of angel musicians and satyrs - makes us think that it could be a prototype for a frame, adaptable to the wishes of hypothetical patrons. The multiple proposals for columns and sculptures flanking the sides also point to a demonstration project. In any case, in this intense invention, we find the same imaginative capacities that are so entertaining in the "Project for an armchair" preserved in Berlin (opus quoted above, p.444, no. 253, reproduced). Flötner's originality had crossed borders and he had received a commission from the Cardinal of Trent for "an amusing chair, made of wood and covered with leather, in which one can rest and take a nap during the day" (op. cit. supra, p. 444).