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The St Margaret Altarpiece

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Germany (north, made)
    Lüneburg (city) (possibly, made)
    Hamburg (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1520 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oak, carved in high relief, painted and gilded

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 50b, The Paul and Jill Ruddock Gallery, case FS

This altarpiece depicting the Life of St Margaret was made in North Germany, probably in Hamburg or Lüneburg in about 1520. It was probably made for the church of St John in Lüneburg which housed in pre-Reformation time forty altarpieces. It depicts the Life of St Margaret from Antioch, the patroness of childbirth and is one of the fourteen Holy Helpers..

Physical description

St. Margaret and scenes from her legend. Left wing: (1) St. Margaret given to the nurse by her father Theodosius (2) St. Margaret keeping sheep (3) St. Margaret testifying before Olybrius.
Centre wing: (5) St. Margaret sentenced (6) St. Margaret led away to prison (7) St. Margaret put into prison (8) St. Margaret tempted by the devil in the form of a man (9) St. Margaret tortured with iron combs (10) St. Margaret scourged (11) St. Margaret overcoming the dragon (12) St. Margaret boiled in a vessel of pitch
Right wing: (13) an angel ministering to St. Margaret in prison (14) Olybrius and his followers on horseback (15) the executioner Malchus praying to St. Margaret (16) St. Margaret beheaded. On the back of the wings are painted the Virgin and Child and St Margaret, St. Catherine and St. Barbara

Place of Origin

Germany (north, made)
Lüneburg (city) (possibly, made)
Hamburg (possibly, made)


ca. 1520 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Oak, carved in high relief, painted and gilded


Width: 242 cm, Height: 208.9 cm central panel, Width: 213 cm central panel, Height: 207.3 cm right wing, Width: 94.3 cm right wing, bottom, Height: 209.6 cm left wing, Width: 94.6 cm bottom, Width: 424.8 cm fully open, Height: 196.5 cm panels on reverse, Width: 94 cm panels on reverse

Descriptive line

Winged altarpiece, Scenes from the Life of St Margaret, carved, painted and gilded oak, North Germany (Lüneburg or Hamburg?), ca. 1520

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1859. In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 49
Maskell, A. Wood Sculpture, London, 1911, pp 136, 137
Habicht, Niedersächsische Kunst in England. Hanover, 1930, pp. 98-99
Busch, Harald. Meister Walter und sein Kreis. Strassburg, 1931, pp. 146-148
von der Osten. Niedersächsische Bildschnitzerei des späten Mittelalters. Berlin, 1940, p.11
Gmelin, H. G. Spätgotische Tafelmalerei in Niedersachsen und Bremen. Berlin, 1974, pp. 181-183
Kauffmann, C. M. Catalogue of Foreign Paintings. London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, Vol. I, no. 140




Painting; Gilding; Carving; Relief

Subjects depicted



Sculpture; Religion; Christianity


Sculpture Collection

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