Het altaarstuk met de Sint Elisabethsvloed uit de Grote Kerk van Dordrecht. De oorspronkelijke plaats en de opdrachtgevers

in Oud Holland – Journal for Art of the Low Countries
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The two panels in the Rijksmuseum depicting the Saint r'lizabeth Flood, attributed to the Master of the Saint Elizabeth Panels, show the inundation which afflicted Dordrecht on the eve of Saint Elizabeth's Day, November 19 1421, the saint in question being Elizabeth of Hungary. The panels, which date from circa *1470, originally flanked an altarpiece, the middie section of which has been lost. When closed, they showcd Saint Elizabeth's Flood (figs. I and 2), and when opencd on high days, they revealed episodes from the life of Saint Elizabeth (figs. 3 and 4). Both wings have been sawn down the middle, halving their thickness and producing four panels. Notably in the figures, a stylistic difference can be observed between Saint Elizabeth's Flood and the scenes of the saints's life. A possible reason for the difference is that the painter was the inventor of the representation on the outside of the panels, whereas the scenes on what was originally the inside were based on iconographic types. Infra-red reflectographic examination leads to the deduction that he was the inventor. The montage shows a fluently rendered underdrawing beneath the landscape (fig.11). There are no people or animals in the underdrawing; they were only executed in paint. The staffage must therefore have been added later. This is not the method of an imitator, but is typical of the inventor. A second argument in favour of a single hand is the difference in importance of the inside and outside of the panels. Greater care may have been lavished on the inside of the altarpiece, which was only visible on holy days. Correspondences in the underdrawing on the original inside and outside also suggest one hand. It is of course conceivable tllat the actual painting was carried out by another artist from the same studio. The 1421 flood has been depicted several times. The renderings show either the moment at which the dike gave way at Wieldrecht (figs. 1 and 2, and figs. 8 and 9), or the situation after the breach, when large tracts of land were inundated (figs. 5, 6 and 7). Virtually all the representations identify the villagcs and rivers, sometimes adding an explanatory text. Such is the case with a hithertm unpublished copy on canvas (fig. 8), to which two cartouches have been added in the sky. The one on the left contains the chronogram 'WIELDRECHT MACH WATERS BECLAGHEN' (Wieldrecht suffering from water). The same text occurs on a panel of circa 1620, showing the local situation shortly after the dike burst (fig. 5). The Rijksmuseum's panels of Saint Elizabetb's Floud and scenes from the saint's life were taken from the Grote Kerk in Dordrecht to the militia headquarters at the St. Christoffel- or Heclhaaksdoelen in 1572 in the wake of the Reformation. Seventeenth-century inventories list 'd'lnundatie van Wieldrecht...'. The special relationship between Wieldrecht and the altar is illustrated by the following events. Those villagers of Wieldrecht who survived the flood moved to Dordrecht. In 1438 they went to the reeve to have a document drawn up regarding an altar which had been assigned to them by the churchwardens of the Grote Kerk. They had managed to save two bells and the font from their own church. In exchange for these they were given an altar dedicated to Saint Lambrecnt, set against a column on the south side of the church. An unpublished chronicle of Dordrecht, ascrihed to Cornelis van Someren, states that the Saint Lambrecht altar was 'furnished' with a large painting of the Flixabeth Flood. This .must have been the Saint Elizabeth's Flood which had been taken to the militia headquarters from the Grote Kerk after tbe Reformation and is now in the Rijksmuseum. The altarpiece must therefore have been donated by one or more Wieldrecht villagers. it was ordered in memory of the disaster which had struck the village and in gratitude to Saint Elizabeth for having rescued the survivors. The specific iconography is directly linked with these donor(s). It was at Wieldrecht that the dike gave way, and that is the exact moment depicted on the panels. In this context, thc chronogram and the emphasis on Wieldrecht in later descriptions of the panels are now understandable.

Het altaarstuk met de Sint Elisabethsvloed uit de Grote Kerk van Dordrecht. De oorspronkelijke plaats en de opdrachtgevers

in Oud Holland – Journal for Art of the Low Countries



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