User Menu

MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

The Calenberg Altarpiece

Start collecting

The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine, with Saints James the Greater, Lucy, Peter and Paul, flanked by Donors and Other Figures (central panel) Saint Maurice with Soldiers from the Theban Legion (inner left wing) The Angel of the Annunciation (outer left wing) [Inner and outer left wing are...

Show Full Description


By 1524, Duke Erich I von Braunschweig-Calenberg (b. 1470 - d. 1540) and his wife, Katharina von Saxonia (b. 1468 - d. 1524), chapel of Calenberg Castle, Pattensen, Germany (original commission) [see note 1]; until about 1636, probably by descent within the family, Calenberg Castle; about 1636, probably transferred to Leine Castle, Hanover [see note 2]; between 1803 and 1811, dismantled and removed from Leine Castle [see note 3]. 1811, acquired by Bernhard Hausmann (b. 1784 - d. 1873), Hanover [see note 4]; 1857, sold by Hausmann to Georg V (b. 1819 - d. 1878), King of Hanover [see note 5]; until 2005, by descent within the royal family of Hanover [see note 6]; 2005, sold by the royal house of Hanover, through Sotheby's, New York, to the MFA. (Accession Date: April 27, 2005) NOTES: [1] The earliest recorded account of the altarpiece at Calenberg Castle is that of M. Heinrich Bünting (Braunschweigische Chronik, 1584). He specifies that the donors represented in the main panel are Princess Katharina and Duke Erich; the coats-of-arms confirm this. For Bunting's account, see endnote below; this is taken from the German transcription by Bernhard Hausmann, Verzeichniss der Hausmann'schen Gemählde-Sammlung in Hannover (Hanover, 1831), pp. 123-24, footnote. Katharina died in 1524, suggesting the altarpiece had been commissioned by that date. [2] In 1636 Georg von Braunschweig-Calenberg moved the seat of power to the city of Hanover (subsequently, Calenberg Castle was abandoned and, in 1690, torn down). Presumably the altarpiece was moved to the new princely residence at this time. [3] Hausmann 1831 (see above and below, nn. 1 and 4) states that he found the altarpiece in pieces in Hanover in 1811, that is, during the French occupation of the city (1803-1813). During this time, Leine Castle was occupied by French troops and plundered. The altarpiece must have been dismantled and discarded or sold as a consequence. [4] Hausmann described the altarpiece in his collection catalogue of 1831; see Hausmann 1831 (as above, n. 1), pp. 123-125, cat. no. 215a-c. He states that in 1811 he discovered the altarpiece in pieces in two junk shops in Hannover, saved them, and made them part of his collection. [5] In 1857, Hausmann closed his gallery and sold the collection to Georg V. See Klaus Mlynek, "Von Privaten zum Öffentlichen - Erste Museumsgründungen in der Residenzstadt Hannover," in 100 Jahre Kestner-Museum Hannover, 1889-1989, ed. Ulrich Gehrig (Hanover: Das Museum, 1989), 170. [6] In 1861, Georg V used the works of art he purchased from Hausmann -- as well as other objects in the family's possession -- as the basis for the Welfenmuseum, the contents of which were entailed, or owned by and inherited within the family. In 1901 these objects formed the basis for the Fideikommissgalerie ("entailed gallery") at the Provinzialmuseum, Hanover. There the Calenberg Altarpiece was inventory no. 423. In 1924, it was removed by the family to their residence at the Schloss Blankenburg, Harz. This move coincided with the reorganization of the Provinzialmuseum, when parts of the Fideikommissgalerie were removed (and some were sold). In 1945, the family left Blankenburg and took its contents to the Schloss Marienburg, Hanover. See Hans Georg Gmelin, Spätgotische Tafelmalerei in Niedersachsen und Bremen (Munich and Berlin, 1974), p. 447; Mlynek 1989 (as above, n. 5), pp. 172-174; and Ines Katenhusen, "150 Jahre Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Hannover," in Das Niedersächsische Landesmuseum Hannover, ed. Heide Grape-Albers (Hanover, 2002), pp. 29, 34-35. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Translation of Heinrich Bünting, Braunschweigische Chronik, 1584, taken from Bernhard Hausmann, Verzeichniss der Hausmann'schen Gemählde-Sammlung in Hannover (Hanover, 1831), pp. 123-124, footnote: It was the Princess Catherine, wife of Duke Eric the Elder, born to a very high princely house, for she was the daughter of the warlike Duke Albrecht of Saxony, a very devout princess, for her Princely Grace had commissioned the chapel in the House Calenberg, and also had the panel made, which was placed upon the altar. On that same panel appear also the arms of her Princely Grace, the little Saxon crown made up of lozenge shapes, and across from these the arms of Braunschweig, and so they are also both, the Duke and the Princess, painted on [the panel], and an image of Mary sits in the center, and holds the small child Jesus in her lap. The Princess is painted in her raiment, as it was customary at that time, with bare neck and chest, adorned with precious jewels, gemstones and golden chains, and so her Princely Grace's ladies-in-waiting are sitting beside her, also dressed in the same manner. Duke Eric the Elder sits facing her on the other side, painted in his entire cuirass, with a long brown velvet mantle, in a red velvet cap, adorned with a handsome long white feather. And even though the painting is rather old, still one sees indeed even so still unto this very day, that it must have been a very beautiful panel, upon which the Princess is in particular very painstakingly painted, with her lovely countenance and beautiful red cheeks.

Credit Line

Museum purchase with funds donated anonymously and Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund

First quarter of the 16th century


Other (Central Panel): 99 x 144.5 cm (39 x 56 7/8 in.) Other (Left Wing): 99.5 x 65.5 cm (39 3/16 x 25 13/16 in.) Other (Right Wing): 101.5 x 67 cm (39 15/16 x 26 3/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on panel