FuP: Following-up Pilate (and his mirrors)

This is as classical follow-up post as it can be. I have written about Pontius Pilate and his mirrors relatively recently (if not in terms of time then at least in terms of the number of postings ago).  By then I was able to show only one ‘good’ case of Pilate’s throne mirrors, the one I spotted in Lisbon. I found many other interesting works too, but they all were more like a collateral benefit.

And then I suddenly encountered ‘not one, but two’ similar works. I shared them with this Flemish art community, but not here, and so is this catch-up.


The first, earlier panel (it is the right one on the picture above) belongs to a huge altarpiece that is currently in the collection of the Bowes Museum, UK. This is its view when open:

and the following picture provides a sense of scale:

These are not my pictures, I took them from a very interesting blog posting about the altarpiece’s restoration, Operation Altarpiece.  The central sculptural part of this altarpiece was made circa 1480, likely in Antwerp. Its six panels are attributed to the so-called Master of the View of Ste-Gudule, sometimes called simply Master of Saint Gulule.

There is a handful of works that are currently thought to be made by this Flemish master from Brussels, but as with many of such anonymous masters, many of these attributions are not more than (wild) guesses. At the moment we know next to nothing about his life.

The altarpiece is dedicated to the Christ Passion, with Cruxifiction being its climax, and so the left and right panels represent some of the scenes ‘before’ and ‘after’. The second from the left is a panel with Pilate Washing His Hands:

Luckily, the panel was picked up by the Google Art Institute for their online collection of the Bowes Museum, and so one can now see its large, zoomable copy.  That in turn allows to clearly see one of the best examples of  the ‘throne mirrors’:

The fragment that I showed earlier also shows a bit bigger context of this mirror, namely a very intensive interaction between Christ and Pilate, also surrounded by people with truly Boschian faces:

Speaking about faces, the one of Pilate resembles another, very different face depicted by the same painter in the scene of Adoration of the Magi:

Typical for his time, the master didn’t have to produce always original and innovative art works, but rather assembled already available pieces into new puzzle boards.

The name of the master was new for me, and I made some basic search for other works. Even a simple Google Image Search brings a lot of examples of his works (or at least the ones currently attributed to this master), and there are also good collections of selected works.

In one of such collections, of RKD, or the Dutch Institute of Art History, I found a whole set of the copies, or rather, the versions of this scene.  Unfortunately, these copies are only available in B&W, and I will have to search further to find the versions in color.

The panel is very similar to the very first panel by Master of the View of Saint Gudule:

But this time it doesn’t have any ‘mirrors’:

There are many more, however, that do:

The scene of the Pilate’s Trial:

Its ‘mirror’ is very similar to the one we saw before (notice also the face of the guy to the right of Jesus):

This is another panel (they say that the original is at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris):

Its mirror frame doesn’t contain the ‘beads’ around the glass surface:


This is one is a fragment of such panel, currently in the Williams College Museum of Art, Mass:

Its frame has eight large beads around the ‘mirror’.

I was told by some members in this FB community that the number of these ‘beads’ may bear some symbolic meaning, for instance, referring to the number of Passion episodes (ten or fourteen).  The best example of how a certain meaning can be assigned to these otherwise design elements can be found in the Arnolfini Portrait, of course, with its ten medallions depicting different scenes of Christ’s life (it is also well-know that these are not the classical Passion scenes):


Finally, I found another interesting work also attributed to the Master of the View of Saint Gudule. It depicts the so called Dispute of Saint Catherine with the Philosophers:

I had a copy of this painting before, but very small one, and with large watermarks. This one is also with the watermarks, but at least it’s a nit larger. Plus, thanks to the RKD website I figured that the panel itself is currently in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon, and eventually was able to find a somewhat more decent (and color) copy:

I had one example of the use of ‘mirrors’ when depicting this scene, on the panel by Jan Provoost (c. 1520)

But in this case the ‘mirror’ is on the throne of the Emperor Maximian, and the whole scene is happening in a fairly public context. In the case of the Master of St. Gudule we see a very homey environment, similar to the one we find in the numerous scenes of Annunciation (with one striking difference that Mary never sits on her bed.)

On the museum website I also found an image showing that the panel is relatively small, 30 x 35 cm:

However, the current copy doesn’t allow to see any details of this ‘mirror’ (which may happen to be a medallion at the end).

PS: One of the members of this community, Regis Goumont, went to the museum and took a picture of this painting! She shared it with the community, and was kind enough to also send me a larger version of the file. Here it is:

It’s way better that all that I had before; alas, the ‘mirror’ is still too blurry to be certain about what it is depicted it in.


The story about the second panel (it is the left one on the very first picture of this posting) should be shorter. The panel is also a part of a large altarpiece:

But we know even less about the masters who made it.  The altarpiece is also devoted to the Passion of Christ, and also has a carved central part and six side panels.  It is believed that the altarpiece was made in Antwerp, circa 1510-20 (it has numerous marks of the the Antwerp Guild of St Luke, but the master behind the panels remain anonymous). The altarpiece was allegedly intended for a convent (beguinage) in the Flemish city of Tongeren.  Currently it is in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, in Melbourne, Australia.

This is the image of the panel showing the scene of the Pilate’s Trial:

Its mirror’s frame is much more simple, though the glass surface is depicted more accurately:

<End of Follow-Up>


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