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Painted and gilded oak triptych known as the St Margaret Altarpiece, North Germany, about 1520. Museum no. T.5894-1859

Painted and gilded oak triptych known as the St Margaret Altarpiece, North Germany, about 1520. Museum no. T.5894-1859

This imposing painted oak altarpiece tells the story of Saint Margaret of Antioch, who was martyred for refusing to renounce Christianity. It was probably made in Hamburg or Lüneburg in North Germany, about 1520, probably for the church of St John in Lüneburg. This church contained 40 altarpieces prior to the Protestant Reformation (1517–1648), when many churches and cathedrals were stripped of their contents.

It was common practice for many craftsmen to work together on such large altarpieces. The style of the elongated heads in the two lower right panels, so different from the others, suggests they were made by a different artist.

You can listen to an enhanced description of the altarpiece using the audio bar below. If you then click on the main image you can view a large version of the altarpiece while listening to the description.

Download: mp3 | ogg View transcript

The life of Saint Margaret of Antioch

Learn more in this audio about Saint Margaret of Antioch, who was said to have been a 15-year-old virgin martyred in about the 4th century for her refusal to renounce Christianity and marry a pagan ruler.
Download: mp3 | ogg View transcript

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