The Martyrdoms of the Apostles, ca. 1435
Nothing in these scenes has been left to chance, nothing is unintentional. The preparatory underdrawing beneath the layer of paint proves that virtually every brushstroke was carefully conceived. Every fold, every colour, every ghastly detail was planned and thought through with the utmost diligence. The greatest care of all was taken in the contrast between the saints evidently unaffected by the tortures, and the dreadful – and downright affectionately painted – things they are being subjected to.
The witnesses to the faith are dressed in modest, single-coloured, softly falling garments. Their calm faces are free of human reactions such as fear or pain. Their murderers and executioners, by contrast, are distinguished by brutal physiognomies – Lochner depicted them as evil from top to toe. These paintings originally decorated the insides of the wings of a folding altarpiece whose central panel showed the Last Judgement and is today in the collection of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne. It is possible that they are among the first works executed by the painter – who was born on Lake Constance around 1400 – in Cologne. Lochner then went on to have a successful career. When he died of the plague in Cologne in 1451, he owned two large houses and had even held the office of city councilman twice.