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Francke, Meister [German, ca 1380-ca 1440]


[ 15th Century Artists ]

Meister Francke, (flourished in the 15th century, Hamburg [Germany]), was an influential German painter of altarpieces.

Francke's name occurs in a contract of 1424 for an altarpiece for a Hamburg church. Nine portions of this work are now in a museum at Hamburg. Besides these, few pictures can be ascribed to him with certainty. One at Leipzig and one at Hamburg are representations of “Christ as the Man of Sorrows.” Francke's style is that of a strong personality, and attempts to relate it to other schools have failed. With feeling for the decorative value of colour and for two-dimensional design, he combined a realistic rendering of detail and a somewhat exaggerated expression of emotions. Numerous altarpieces in the north of Germany recall his style, and his influence must have been widespread.

Two main altarpieces attributed to him survive, dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury and Saint Barbara, in an unusually intense style, showing awareness of French and Early Netherlandish court art. He probably arrived in Hamburg after the death in 1415 of the previous leading artist there, Master Bertram, and shows little or no influence from him, but he may have been influenced by the more courtly style of Conrad von Soest, about ten years older than Francke, who worked to the south in Westphalia.

The Hamburg association of traders to England commissioned an altarpiece from “Meister Francke” in 1424; the contract does not survive, but is mentioned in their memorial book. This is probably the “St Thomas (of Canterbury) Altarpiece,” completed in 1436, of which parts survive in the Kunsthalle, Hamburg. The rather earlier St Barbara Altarpiece may have been commissioned for Finland, where it surfaced a century ago. The “Thomas Altar” has eight surviving scenes, but is missing its main panel and several others. The “Barbara Altar” has also eight scenes, on both sides of the wings to a carved wood central panel by another artist. At least two other panels are in museum collections. Francke was almost entirely forgotten after the Renaissance until the end of the 19th century when, like Master Bertram, he was rediscovered and published by Alfred Lichtwart, Director of the Hamburg Kunsthalle.

From October of 1916 through January of 1917, Rudolf Steiner gave a series of nine lectures known as the Art Course. These lectures were given the title of: The History of Art. Click here to discover what Steiner said about Francke in the seventh lecture, the eighth lecture, or in the entire lecture series.

RS Archive pages at Powell's Books

  Francke, Meister [German, ca 1380-ca 1440]

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(9 Images, Page 1 of 1)
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File: HA07-009.jpg
Title: The Nativity
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File: HA08-068.jpg
Title: Man of Sorrow (Vir Dolorum, Man of sorrows, with angels)
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File: Das_Martyrium_des_Th
Title: The Martyrdom of St Thomas of Canterbury
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File: Die_Anbetung_der_Kon
Title: The Adoration of theMagi
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File: Die_Grablegung_anago
Title: Entombment of Christ
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File: Die_Verhohnung_des_T
Title: The Mocking of Saint Thomas of Canterbury
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File: Die_klagenden_Frauen
Title: The Women at the Cross (fragment)
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File: Geisselung_der_Barba
Title: Martyrdom of St Barbaram St Barbara altar
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Type: JPG
File: HA08-069.jpg
Title: The Resurrection (St. Thomas Altarpiece, open, right wing)
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(9 Images, Page 1 of 1)


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