A particularly valuable exhibit from the Gothic Room of the Mining and Gothic Museum in Leogang is the winged altarpiece from the Frey collection. The first item from the Frey collection, it was acquired by friends of the museum in 2008 and then donated to it. Carl von Frey (1826-1896) was a successful businessman who, in the second half of the 19th century, assembled Salzburg’s largest private collection of Gothic art.
The altarpiece was probably built around 1520 in Lower Bavaria. The shrine, predella and wings are made in spruce and the sculptures in lime wood. The wings are painted on both sides. The interior shows St. Barbara and St. Margaret, each on a gold brocade background. The exterior shows the Annunciation. Below it, on the predella, is Jesus making a blessing gesture and holding a globe, along with the 12 apostles.
The shrine or ‘retable’ has been preserved more or less in its original state. Mary is standing in the centre of the base with the Infant Jesus. At her feet is a crescent moon. To the left and right of the Mother of God are St. Mary Magdalene and St. Catherine.
Mary corresponds to the Apocalyptic style of Madonnas with the golden rays on the back wall of the shrine symbolising the sun. Mary carries the lively, cross-legged Infant Jesus on her right arm, who is reaching with both arms towards his mother. In her left hand the Madonna holds a fruit which her child is trying to grab.
The Blessed Mother’s robes consist of a golden dress gathered below the chest with a round neckline and golden sleeves. A golden mantle hangs on her shoulders, the blue lining of which is visible in the drapery.
Folds fall in long lanes down to the base. Her oval-shaped, harmonious face with its high forehead is framed by open strands of hair that spill loosely onto the shoulders. The Madonna is wearing a leafy crown.
St. Catherine, occupying the place of honour on the right side of the Mother of God, holds a sword in her left hand. There is a broken wheel at her feet – a symbol of martyrdom. In her right hand she is presenting an open book. On her head is a simple gold crown. The rich folds of her golden mantle reveal its green lining as if swept up by a gust of wind.
To the left of the Blessed Mother is St. Mary Magdalene. She is wearing a veil placed carefully on her shoulders and holding a golden, tapered anointing vessel with both hands.
The winged altarpiece from the Frey collection was exhibited in Salzburg in 1888 at the 40th anniversary of Emperor Franz Joseph I’s coronation.
The oldest representation of an Apocalyptic Madonna is the Crescent Moon Madonna in Hortus Delicarium by Herrad of Landsberg. The image of the Crescent Moon Madonna goes back to the account of John’s vision of a cosmic, pregnant woman crowned with stars and clothed by the sun with the moon beneath her feet, who is menaced by a dragon following an apocalyptic battle between the dragon and the Archangel Michael.