The Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe’s collection of paintings from the medieval and early modern period is one of the largest in Germany, and enjoys an international reputation. One of the earliest testaments to the artistic sensibility of the House of Baden is Hans Baldung Griens’s large Markgrafentafel depicting Margrave Christopher I with his family in adoration of the Virgin and Child with St. Anne (around 1511): a panel painting that reflects the religious and dynastic political ambition of the work’s patron. From the collection of Margravine Sibylla Augusta of Baden-Baden (1675-1733) come two small but remarkably beautiful and finely painted works by Lucas Cranach the Elder: Mary and Child (1518) and The Judgment of Paris from 1530. These two paintings comprise the focal point of a group of works by Cranach that includes religious works and mythological scenes as well as portraits.
Works by Hans Baldung Grien as well as Hans Burgkmair, Martin Schnaggner, Bernhard Strigel, Georg Pencz and Mattias Gerung clearly demonstrate the wealth of variety within the German Renaissance. Highlights include Albrecht Dürer’s devotional picture Christ as the Man of Sorrows (1493/94) as well as four paintings by Matthias Grünewald: two grisaille paintings from the Heller Altarpiece (1510) and poignant depictions of the bearing of the cross and the crucifixion of Christ (from the Taubischofsheim altarpiece, ca. 1525).
The museum’s comprehensive and impressive collection of medieval art from Swabia and the Upper Rhine includes the Johannes Tablet (ca. 1410/20) by a master of Strasbourg, the large Marientafeln of ‘Virgin panels’ from Kloster Lichtenthal (1489), and a winged altarpiece that once belonged to the Bishop of Constance, Hugo von Hohenlandenberg (ca. 1500). The six panels from the ‘Karlsruhe Passion’ (ca. 1455), made for the collegiate church St. Thomas in Strasbourg, are unique. They depict a remarkably poignant display of the Passion of Christ and are one of the most brilliant achievements of late medieval art. This series of pictures is the result of a persistent, decades-long collection effort: each panel was acquired individually, beginning in the Grand Ducal period with the ‘Crown of Thorns’ in 1858 and ending most recently with the acquisition of the ‘Flagellation’ in 1999: one of the museum’s most important acquisitions in the past 20 years.
While the Karlsruhe collection from the 14th–16th centuries focuses on German art, important works from different schools are also on display. The tour begins with a diptych by a Bohemian master (1360), which shows Mary and the Infant on the left, and Christ as the Man of Sorrows on the right. A two-part typological representation of Paradise linking the Old Testament to the New Testament is the work of a French master (1460), and the famous ‘Karlsruhe Adoration’ (ca. 1440/50) – a representation of the Holy Family in a night landscape – was created by the young Paolo Uccello or a Florentine painter from Uccello’s circle. One masterpiece of the High Renaissance is Lorenzo di Credi’s tondo, or round painting, Madonna Adoring the Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist (1480). Early Netherlandish painting is represented by a triptych with a depiction of the Virgin and Child with St. Anne in the centre, attributed to the ‘Master of Frankfurt’, a painter from Antwerp.