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Circle of the Master of Liesborn, Saint Margaret

Key facts
Full title Saint Margaret
Artist Circle of the Master of Liesborn
Artist dates active second half of the 15th century
Series Fragments from an Altarpiece of the Virgin and Saints
Date made late 15th century
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 80.7 × 47.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1854
Inventory number NG2153
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Saint Margaret
Circle of the Master of Liesborn

This is one of two fragments in the National Gallery’s collection of a larger work that showed the Virgin Mary and Christ Child seated in a garden. It shows Saint Margaret, who was from the town of Antioch (in modern-day Turkey). She wears a headdress of pearls, as her name means ‘pearl’ in Greek and Latin.

According to her legend, Saint Margaret escaped from the stomach of a dragon which had swallowed her whole by making the sign of the cross. Here she is shown holding a gilded cross and using the monstrous creature – it bares its teeth at the right of the fragment – as a seat. She holds the animal by a golden chain, emphasising her victory over it. The inscription on her halo, which has been repainted, reads: ‘Sancta margarit’.

Although the panel is badly damaged, there is part of a lamb’s body behind Margaret. The lamb was the attribute of Saint Agnes; her name means ‘lamb’ in Latin.

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Fragments from an Altarpiece of the Virgin and Saints

These two panels showing Saints Dorothy and Margaret are fragments of a larger painting which probably showed the Virgin Mary and Christ Child seated in a garden surrounded by female saints. The other saints probably included Agnes and Catherine. The panels come from a chapel in Lippstadt in the region of Westphalia in western Germany.

There are several other panels in the National Gallery’s collection painted by the same anonymous master. He has been named after the altarpiece that he painted for the Benedictine abbey at Liesborn, fragments of which are also in the Gallery’s collection.