Lombard Triptych
Lombard Triptych
Lombard Triptych

Mid 15th century


Dom Museum Wien
On loan from the Church am Hof, Vienna


Medieval art

On view

Reproduction request
Loan request

Photo: Leni Deinhardstein, Lisa Rastl, Dom Museum Wien
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Devotional altar with complex meaning

The Triptych with its complex pictorial programm was made for the personal use of a patron. A prayer of indulgence on parchment is attached to it.

The unusual pictorial program of the triptych does not reveal itself at first sight. It was not intended for the masses anyway, but was made in the mid-fifteenth century as a devotional altar for a patron. The spiritual idea that informs the work is the “imitatio Christi,” providing encouragement to follow Christ. To serve the purpose, the central panel depicts scenes from the life of Christ: the Nativity and the annunciation to the shepherds, next to it the scourging of Christ, and below Jesus as a Man of Sorrows by his tomb. The gable on the left top shows Mary’s visit to Elisabeth, with a little angel above them heralding the annunciation of the Lord. The central gable gives prominence to the sudarium, the veil with the “true” likeness of Jesus (“vera ikon”), which is held up by St. Veronica.

Aside from narratives from the life of Jesus, the side wings show two representations of the enthroned Madonna, presenting herself once in an earthly (with saints Peter and Paul) and once in a heavenly setting (with angels). Also to be seen on the lateral panels are the stigmatization of St. Francis of Assisi and the martyrdom of St. Peter of Verona (Dominican). It is a remarkable fact that the triptych depicts saints standing for two competing monastic orders; both called for the “imitatio Christi” and saw themselves as models for it.

The work dates from the Renaissance period, but is still mostly Gothic in style. One special feature is the portrayal of the Man of Sorrows on the left: it was innovative south of the Alps at the time both in form (a full-figure Jesus sitting by the tomb) and content (a so-called “Angel Pietà”). Another specialty is the piece of parchment glued to the right bottom edge of the central panel: written on it is a prayer of indulgence that was supposed to spare believers some temporal punishment for their sins.