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Triptych showing scenes from the Martyrdom of Saint Barbara and scenes from the Life of Christ
Center panel: The Crucifixion (above); Saint Barbara Enthroned (below)
Left panel: A Prophet (above); The Scourging of Barbara (below)
Right panel: A Prophet (above); The Mutilation of Barbara (below)

Master of the Laufen High Altarpiece, Austrian (active Salzburg), dated work 1467

Made in Austria, Europe

c. 1465-1470

Oil and gold on panels

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 305, European Art 1100-1500, third floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the W. P. Wilstach Fund, the George W. Elkins Fund, and Museum funds, 1993

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As described in The Golden Legend, written in about 1267 by Jacopo da Voragine, Saint Barbara converted to Christianity against the wishes of her pagan father. Locked in a tower by him, she ordered workmen to construct a third window inthe building to symbolize the Christian trinity. Enraged, her father turned her over to the Roman authorities for torture, and when her execution was ordered,he himself beheaded her. The left and right panels on the front of this triptychillustrate episodes from Barbara’s gruesome martyrdom.

These graphic depictions are intended to help the viewer equate Barbara’s physical torments with those of Christ, whose crucifixion is depicted in the top center composition. The figures at the top left and right, probably the apostles John and Luke, hold sayings taken from the last words of Christ on the cross, which here apply also to Barbara’s death. The bottom center panel shows Barbara enthroned in heaven, wearing a crown and holding a palm frond as symbols of victory over death. A tower and chalice, her identifying attributes, appear nearby.

Barbara’s martyrdom is paralleled on the reverse by the resurrected Christ standing in the tomb. The left and right panels of the back, which are movable and can be folded shut to appear on the front, show the angel Gabriel announcing the incarnation of Christ to the Virgin Mary.


George Kriehn (b. 1868), New York, by 1931 [1]. With E. and A. Silberman Galleries, New York, by 1936-1951; sold to Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia, June 1, 1951 [2]; sold to PMA, 1993. 1. Annotations on the reverse of two photos of the triptych in the "Vorbildersammlung" photo archive of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich, (inv. no. 31-108 and 109) list "George Kriehn" as the owner, most likely the American writer and lecturer on art of that name, who received his Ph.D. at the University of Strassburg (now Strasbourg) in 1892 and lived in New York from 1900. The inventory numbers on the photos indicate that they were catalogued in 1931, so presumably Kriehn was the owner at that time. 2. Charles L. Kuhn, A Catalogue of German Paintings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in American Collections, Cambridge, 1936, p. 73, no. 314; and dated receipt in Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial collection files (copy in curatorial file).

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