The Brixen Altarpiece, about 1500-1510. Museum No. 192-1866

The Brixen Altarpiece, about 1500-1510. Museum No. 192-1866

Altarpiece
Bressanone/Brixen, Italy (Tyrolese)
About 1500-1510
Height 443.2cm
Museum No. 192-1866

In the late 1400s and early 1500s the making of altarpieces like this was a flourishing industry in the Tyrol, an area that is divided today between Italy and Austria. It has been estimated that there were once over 2000 examples of altarpiece in the churches and chapels of the region. The central panel of this example features painted sculptures of the Virgin and Child, flanked by St Florian (left) and St John the Baptist (right).

The two reliefs on the left wing depict the Annunciation (above) and the Presentation in the Temple (below). The two reliefs on the right illustrate the Nativity (above) and the Adoration of the Magi (below).  These scenes all relate to Christ's infancy and are described in the Gospels. On certain special days the wings would be closed, revealing paintings on the back of the wings.

The prominence given to saints like those shown here and the Virgin Mary was heavily criticised in the 1500s by those people who sought to reform the Catholic Church. In some parts of Europe were these ideas took hold many such images were destroyed.