A lost fifteenth-century drawing rediscovered: Donors Kneeling in Adoration before the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne
A lost fifteenth-century drawing rediscovered: Donors Kneeling in Adoration before the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne
The linear contours of the figures and the placement
of drapery folds in the Bacri drawing are precise,
clearly outlining the shapes, as in all the compositions
of the Master of the Legend of Saint Barbara. In the
same way, the fabrics and their arrangement play
an important decorative role, as is apparent in the
mantle of Saint Anne, the halo of the angel and the
dress of the Virgin. In the draperies, certain features
are reinforced with black ink, an idiosyncrasy that is
also ref lected in the underdrawing of the eponymous
painting of the Master of the Legend of Saint
Barbara and in drawings by his entourage (fig. 16).
This could be interpreted, in my opinion, as a desire
to emphasize the main folds requiring particular
care during the pictorial execution, as is the case in
drawings by Van Eyck (fig. 17).27
There are also morphological analogies in the structure
of the faces, such as simple lines which outline small
eyes, long noses, and small mouths as in the eponymous
painting (figs. 18a & b).28 The hands are anatomically
approximate, and are often disproportionate, like those
of Saint Anne and the Virgin. Finally, the empty shields,
of which there are three in the Paris drawing, reappear
in several works attributed to the master and his studio,
such as in the corner of the Louvre drawing (see fig. 14), a
project for his autograph tableau, part of which is kept in
Brussels and the other part in Bruges (see figs. 13a & b).
Fig. 15 / Master of the Legend
of Saint Barbara (workshop),
Virgin and Child Enthroned, with
Donors and Saint John the Baptist
and Saint Margaret, ca. 1465,
drawing, 19.5 x 27 cm, Berlin,
Kupferstichkabinett - Staatliche
Museen zu Berlin.
Fig. 16 / Master of the Legend of
Saint Barbara, Scenes from the
Legend of Saint Barbara, detail
of first scene (IRR), ca. 1480, oil
on oak panel, 73.2 x 124 cm,
Brussels, Royal Museums of Fine
Arts of Belgium.
Fig. 17 / Jan and Hubert van
Eyck, Altarpiece of the Mystic
Lamb, detail of underdrawing
(IRR), 1432, oil on panel, Ghent,
Saint Bavo Cathedral.
The context in which the Bacri drawing was made
suggests information relevant to chronology. Thus, the
patron in prayer, if one accepts my hypothesis of a
portrait of Anselme Adornes, does not wear the collar of
the Order of the Unicorn which would have been offered
to him in 1469 or in 1472 by King James III of Scotland.
On the other hand, it is present in the portrait in Bruges.
The Bacri drawing was therefore either earlier than 1472,
or made in a different political context, not relating to
the missions Anselme led in Scotland on behalf of the
Burgundian court, i.e. between 1475, when he became
mayor of Bruges, and his assassination in 1483.29


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