Friday, May 27, 2005

Mystery Hands

Many of the donors, bystanders and other contemporary people who appear holding rosaries in paintings are at a relatively small scale compared to the painting as a whole.

This means that the best way to show the beads clearly, in as much detail as possible, is to take a closeup photo of the person's hands and beads.

This leaves me with a certain number of "mystery hands" illustrations to ponder. These are closeups, often used for book covers or jackets, frontispieces or endpapers. They show wonderful rosaries, but often I can't find a mention of exactly what painting those hands belong to.

So you'll understand I'm happy to have attached one of my pairs of "mystery hands" to someone! They belong to Claus Stalburg (or Stalburger, or possibly Stralenburg), painted by the "Master of the Stalburg Portraits" in Frankfurt, Germany, in the early 1500s.

Here's the painting I was trying to trace -- and as you see, the copy I have is printed in black and white.


I don't even remember exactly what I was looking for in the Marburg Photo Index, but when I saw this portrait, I knew I'd found the right hands:

Claus Stalburger

Claus Stalburg (1469-1524) was a member of the governing council of Frankfurt, and later Mayor. He married Margaretha Vom Rhein (1509?-1558?), who was some 40 years his junior. I'd be tempted to think she was his daughter rather than his wife, except that the portrait of her (if correctly identified) is clearly one of a matching pair, a common form of married-couple portraits. And of course such marriages were not unknown, or perhaps she was his second wife. Here's the pair of them:

Stalburgs both

And here is a closeup of Margaretha:

Margaretha Stalburg

I'm interested in the rosary beads both of them are holding. Clearly they are very similar, but not identical. Hers seem to have five decades, rather than three (?), but the beads and pomander are smaller than her husband's. While both are fairly short loops, they seem to be of the same general type as the large coral beads shown in a number of 16th-century German portraits (see Big, Red and German; Big Berthas, It's a Guy thing, and Vicomte and Vicomtesse).

An extensive Web search finally turned up a very small pair of images in color -- small because they are advertising for large versions of the same images, for sale by Artothek.

And I was delighted to see that, while you can't see much detail in these little images, the beads are clearly that nice, bright coral-red.

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