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Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
A drawing of St Conrad (900-975), Bishop of Constance. Conrad demonstrated his faith by drinking a chalice of consecrated wine into which a poisonous spider had fallen and thus he is often depicted with a spider, which here can be seen sitting on the rim of the chalice. His cult was particularly popular in the diocese of Constance, of which he was patron, and neighbouring Freiburg, where Baldung undertook some of his most important commissions, and this may lend further support to an attribution to an artist associated with his circle. Baldung himself portrayed Conrad as one of the attendant saints in a painting of the Crucifixion now in Basel, dated 1512. The present drawing may have been intended as a study for a similar painting.The work has been related to a series of standing saints drawn in black and white on prepared paper from the circle of Hans Baldung Grien (c.1485-1545). Baldung himself produced such studies, among them a drawing of St Nicholas of Bari on bright orange paper now in the Louvre. The St Conrad drawing, with its slightly hesitant lines, however, does not display the flowing confidence of the Louvre sheet, and small mistakes, such as the foot of the chalice (the bulk of which disappears behind the bishop’s hand), suggest that this is the work of a talented pupil rather than Baldung himself. It has been suggested that the St Conrad sheet may be by the same artist as the wings of an altarpiece in Frankfurt, which were painted with standing saints by a member of Baldung’s workshop. Neither of the two HGB monograms on the present drawing is in Baldung’s hand, but that at bottom right is possibly by the artist of the drawing. HGB monograms appear on other drawings known to be after works by Baldung, and the presence of the monogram here may indicate that this work, too, is a copy after a drawing by the artist.
Catalogue entry adapted from 'The Northern Renaissance. Dürer to Holbein', London 2011