In the late 15th-century, a Benedictine abbot named Benedikt Eck of Vilsbiburg commissioned an unknown (to us) painter to produce several altar panels. You can see the quite remarkable results at The Master of Mondsee exhibition in the Upper Belvedere palace.
- First time all eight surviving paintings shown together
- Also presents a detailed context for the works
- Runs Feb 7 – May 17
- Just a normal palace entrance ticket needed
- See also: Belvedere times and tickets
Der Meister von Mondsee
(Press photo: Johannes Stoll © Belvedere, Vienna)
Vienna’s museums host a fair few lovely pieces of art where we’re not too sure who created them. The Kunsthistorisches Museum, for example, has several stunning ivory sculptures attributed only to the “Master of the Furies”.
Another example is the “Master of Mondsee”, who worked at the turn of the 15th century. He produced the panels for a winged altarpiece likely built for the church in the Benedictine Mondsee Abbey (hence the name) in Upper Austria, around 1497.
(The abbey’s church still exists, though the abbey itself closed during the church reforms of the late 18th century.)
The altarpiece fell victim to the caprice of history, its panels split off and sold off. Of the eight paintings known to have survived, Belvedere owns five. The Schlossmuseum Linz in Upper Austria has two, and the other enjoys a spot in the Liechtenstein Princely Collections.
Belvedere’s The Master of Mondsee exhibition is the first time all eight paintings have appeared together since they were parted some 200 years ago.
But curator Veronika Pirker-Aurenhammer offers more than just a chance to admire these late-medieval masterpieces in one place.
As part of Belvedere’s IN-SIGHT series, the exhibition also explores the context of the pieces in terms of cultural and art history. For example:
- You learn more about the original commission by Abbot Benedikt Eck (who actually appears in one painting). The display includes the abbey’s half of an original 1471 contract with a Michael Pacher for another altarpiece
- Side by side comparisons of panels by the Master and Pacher show how the latter might have inspired the former. Other parts of the exhibition explore the possible artistic biography of our unknown painter
- Copies of underdrawings unveiled by modern imaging analysis help reveal the Master’s technical approach
These panel paintings on display are:
- The Presentation of Christ
- Adoration of the Magi
- Christ among the Doctors
- The Circumcision of Christ
- The Flight into Egypt
- St. Augustine
- St. Ambrosius
- The Madonna of Ears (which is where Abbot Eck appears)
The panels remain remarkably bright and detailed for their age, replete with (often curious) little details, such as:
- An idolatrous golden calf at the back of the Circumcision of Chris
- An onlooker who breaks the fourth wall by staring directly at the “camera”
- Clearly identifiable strawberry and columbine plants in the Flight into Egypt (these plant motifs often appear in association with the Virgin Mary)
The exhibition only fills three small rooms, so is easily incorporated into your trip around Belvedere’s more extensive permanent galleries.
Dates and tickets
The Master of Mondsee exhibition runs from February 7th to May 17th. During this time, Upper Belvedere should open daily from 9am to 6pm (9pm on Fridays).
No extra ticket is required, just a normal ticket for the palace or, for example, a Vienna Pass sightseeing pass. Upper Belvedere has a time slot system, but crowds shouldn’t be too crazy at this time of year (things will get busier around Easter, though).
How to get to the exhibition
As luck would have it, there’s a whole article about how best to find Upper Belvedere.
If you like your 15th-century art, the same location has a permanent exhibition with medieval masterpieces, while the Prunkstall down in Lower Belvedere has more works from the medieval collection.
Address: Prinz Eugen-Straße 27, 1030 Vienna