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Paumgartner Altarc. 1503
Oil on lime panel, 155 x 126 cm (central), 151 x 61 cm (each wing)
Alte Pinakothek, Munich
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The altar has the traditional shape of a winged altarpiece. The outside, the weekday side, displays a workshop production of an Annunciation and the former standing figures of saints Catherine and Barbara. When opened, the magnificent colours of the Nativity are visible, framed by saints George and Eustace.
This triptych was commissioned by the brothers Stephan and Lukas Paumgartner for St Catherine's Church in Nuremberg. It may well have been ordered after Stephan's safe return from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1498. The main panel depicts the Nativity, set in an architectural ruin. The left wing shows St George with a fearsome dragon and the right wing St Eustace, with both saints dressed as knights and holding identifying banners. A seventeenth-century manuscript records that the side panels were painted in 1498 and that the two saints were given the features of the Paumgartner brothers (with Stephan on the left and Lukas on the right). This is the earliest occasion on which an artist is known to have used the facial features of a donor in depicting a saint. The exteriors of the wing panels were of the Annunciation, although only the figure of the Virgin on the left panel has survived.
On stylistic grounds, the Nativity was painted a few years later than the wings, probably in 1502 or soon afterwards. The tiny body of Christ is almost lost in the composition, surrounded by a swarm of little angels. Peering out from behind the Romanesque columns on the right are the ox and the ass, while opposite them on the left side are the faces of two shepherds. The composition, formed by the ruins of a palatial building, draws the eye towards the archway. Two other shepherds step up into the courtyard, the red and blue of their clothes echoing the colours of Joseph and the Virgin Mary. In the sky, an angel descends to reveal news of Christ's birth to another pair of shepherds tending their flock on the distant hillside. Although traditionally a night-time scene, it is brightly illuminated by a ball of light in the sky.
The small figures at the bottom corners of the central panel are the Paumgartner family with their coats of arms. They were painted over in the seventeenth century, when donor portraits went out of favour, and were only uncovered during restoration in 1903. On the left behind Joseph are the male members of the family, Martin Paumgartner, followed by his two sons Lukas and Stephan and an elderly bearded figure who may be Hans Sch霵bach, second husband of Barbara Paumgartner. On the far right is Barbara Paumgartner (n嶪 Volckamer), with her daughters Maria and Barbara.
UNESCO designates Church of the Nativity as endangered site
Nativity of Christ ：耶穌聖誕；聖（耶）誕節：簡稱 Christmas 。新約路加福音記述，若瑟從納匝肋城到猶太名叫伯利恒（白冷）的達味城去，好同自己懷孕的聘妻瑪利亞去登記，他們在那裏的時候，她生產的日期滿了。便生出她的頭胎男兒，用繈褓將祂裹起，放在馬槽中 … 忽有一大隊天軍，同那天使一起讚頌天主說：天主在天受光榮，主愛的人在世享平安（路二 4-14 ）。
Nativity of Our Lady ：聖母誕辰。聖母瑪利亞的生日，慶日在 九月八日 。
Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary ：天使報喜；聖母領報；預報救主降生：佳播天使向瑪利亞預報救主基督降生（路一 26-38 ）的奧跡。早在第四世紀初葉，納匝肋聖母領報大殿遺址中，就明顯證實聖母領報的敬禮已成慣例；而羅馬於第七世紀開始，每年三月廿五日慶祝聖母領報節，一直沿用至今。