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Workshop of the Master of the Life of the Virgin, 'The Conversion of Saint Hubert: Left Hand Shutter', probably 1485-90

Key facts
Full title The Conversion of Saint Hubert: Left Hand Shutter
Artist Workshop of the Master of the Life of the Virgin
Artist dates active second half of the 15th century
Series Two Shutters from the Werden Altarpiece
Date made probably 1485-90
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 123 × 83.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1854
Inventory number NG252
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Conversion of Saint Hubert: Left Hand Shutter
Workshop of the Master of the Life of the Virgin

Saint Hubert kneels in prayer in front of a vision of Christ upon the Cross, which has miraculously appeared between the antlers of a stag. Hubert was a courtier in Metz, a city in the eastern Frankish Kingdom, and an enthusiastic hunter. He had been out with his dogs in the forest of Ardennes when he had this vision of the crucified Christ – a confrontation that converted him to Christianity. Hubert became Bishop of Liège in 716.

The artist has evoked Hubert’s wealth and status through his elaborate clothing – his gold damask tunic is edged with fur, and slashed to reveal his red velvet sleeve beneath. The sky is made of gold leaf and would have shimmered in the light of the candles on the altar. The painting also has an imagined internal light source: careful shadows, for example beneath Hubert’s bent right leg, suggest a crisp daylight.

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Two Shutters from the Werden Altarpiece

These paintings once formed the shutters of an altarpiece made for the Benedictine abbey at Werden, near Cologne in Germany. The shutters were decorated on both sides, and could be closed to protect the central part of the altarpiece, which has not been traced.

The inner and outer faces have been separated, creating four panels out of two. The inner faces, which would have been visible when the shutters were open, show events from the life of Saint Hubert. The outer faces each show four standing saints, including Saint Hubert and Saint Benedict, as well as other members of the Benedictine Order.