The Madonna of the Flowering PeaEnlarge image

The Madonna of the Flowering Pea, c. 1425

Unknown (German, Cologne - 15th century)

egg tempera, silver and gold leaf on walnut
70.3 x 49.8 cm
Purchased 1953
National Gallery of Canada (no. 6088)

NEW - Images of the Virgin and Child had long been objects of devotion. This type, showing the Virgin from up close, references Byzantine icons that were often seen as miracle-working relics in Western Europe. The unknown artist emphasized the emotional bond between the mother and her young child. Their humanity counterbalances their majesty – the Madonna wears a crown as Queen of Heaven, and angels play music for her and her son. The work once appeared jewel-like: the gold ground (now lost) would have caught the light, and the halos would have shone with silver leaf, now tarnished. The panel and its frame were carved from a single block of wood. It is a rare survival of this early type.


by 1859– 1862
Johann Peter Weyer (1794–1864), Cologne, Germany [1]

1862 –
Countess von Lichtenstein (Josephine Sophie von Liechtenstein?), Vienna, Austria [2]

Count Karl Anton von Hohenzollern (1811–1885), Sigmaringen, Germany [3]

by 1904
Kommerzienrat Wittich, Darmstadt, Germany [4]

by 1930 – c.1936
Prof. Werner Wittich (1867–1937), Langendrössel (near Bergheim), county of Ribeauvillé (Rappoltsweiler), Alsace, France, by inheritance [5]

c. 1936 – still in summer 1938
Nathan Katz (1893–1949), Dieren, The Netherlands, and Basle, Switzerland [6]

1939/11 –
David Katz [7]

Margrit Schulthess, Basle, Switzerland (?) [8]

1949/08 – 1953
David Katz [9]

E.J. Van Wisselingh & Co., Amsterdam, The Netherlands [10]

National Gallery of Canada, purchased from Van Wisselingh [11]


The main source for this provenance is H. Kier's and Günter Zehnder's publication “Lust und Verlust II.” [Kier, Hiltrud and Günter Zehnder (ed.). “Lust und Verlust II. Corpus-Band zu Kölner Gemäldesammlungen 1800–1860, Cologne: Wienand 1998, p. 507, no 101]. Exceptions and other supporting documents are noted.

[1] Johann Peter Weyer was Stadtbaumeister (“City architect”) of Cologne from 1822–44 and a renowned art collector. The Madonna of the Flowering Pea is included in Weyer's 1859 collection catalogue [Weyer, Johann Peter. “Catalog der Sammlung von Gemälden älterer Meister des Herrn Johann Peter Weyer, Cologne 1859, cat. no. 101]. Weyer's collection was auctioned off in 1862. The Madonna of the Flowering Pea was offered for sale at Heberle, Cologne, on August 25–30, 1862 as lot 108 [“Reichen Gemälde-Gallerie des Herrn J. P. Weyer.” J. M. Heberle, Cologne, August 25, 1862]. The painting was bought in [letter from Horst Vey, of the Wallraf–Richartz Museum, Cologne, dated April 17, 1970, to Myron Laskin Jr., NGC research curator, NGC curatorial file. Vey cites the list of results of the 1862 Weyer sale].

[2]Kier and Zehnder mention that the The Madonna of the Flowering Pea was “sold to Müller for the Countess Lichtenstein in Vienna for 255 Thaler (+10% commission) in 1862”.

[3] Kier and Zehnder list the Fürstlich Hohenzollernsches Museum in Sigmaringen as the next owner of the work. The founder and owner of the museum was Count Karl Anton von Hohenzollern, who, according to Franz Rieffel, acquired a large number of artworks from the Weyer Collection in August 1862. However, Rieffel does not mention the “The Madonna of the Flowering Pea” in his article as one of the works purchased by the Count at the Weyer sale. [Franz Rieffel. "Das Fürstlich Hohenzollernsche Museum zu Sigmaringen: Gemälde und Bildwerke," Städel–Jahrbuch 3–4 (1924), p. 56].

[4] Kommerzienrat Ferdinand Wittich came from a family of publishers and printers in Darmstadt [Bräuning, Hermann. “Der Buchdruck in Darmstadt, vol.2: Die L. C. Wittich' sche Hofbuchdruckerei 1764-1934.” Darmstadt: Wittich, 1936, p. 235f.]

[5] Werner Wittich was professor of law and economics at the University of Strasbourg. From April 11, 1930, The Madonna of the Flowering Pea was on loan from “Professor Wittich of Bergheim”at the Museum Unterlinden in Colmar [Waltz, Jean-Jaques. "Registre des dons et ascquisitions, 1923-38." Colmar, Musée d'Unterlinden. See also letter from Förster, March 13, 1954 to Hubbard (NGC)]. In a letter to H.O. Hubbard of the NGC, dated November 5, 1953, New York art dealer Frederic A. Stern mentions that, according to his files, the painting was acquired in Colmar by Nathan Katz around 1936 [NGC curatorial files].

[6] See note [5]. Dutch- Jewish art dealer Nathan Katz established a branch of his firm in Basle in 1940, where he resided permanently from 1941 until the end of the war. According to a photo of the painting in the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, the painting belonged to Katz at least until summer 1938. One photo, dated November 1939, notes D. Katz as the owner, presumably Nathan's son David [Email from Perry Schrier, 'Origins Unknown', The Hague, to A. Kausch, NGC Provenance Research Project, Nov. 29, 2007, NGC curatorial file].

[7] See note [6].

[8] The name of the Swiss art dealer Margrit (Marguerite) Schulthess appears in several provenances of the painting. Rolf Wallrath lists her as owner in his 1971 article [Wallrath, Rolf. “Die Madonna mit der Wickenblüte.” in: “Aspekte zur Kunstgeschichte von Mittelalter und Neuzeit. Karl Heinz Klasen zum 75. Geburtstag.” Weimar: Böhlaus, 1971, p. 308], so does Zehnder in his 1981 dissertation [Zehnder, Frank Günther. “Der Meister der Heiligen Veronika. Inaugural–Dissertation zur Erlangung der Doktorwürde der Philosophischne Fakultät der Rheinischen Friedrich–Wilhelms–Universität zu Bonn.” Sankt Augustin 1981, footnote 264]. In a later publication [“Lust und Verlust II.” see above], however, Zehnder does not name her. Nathan Katz had been in close contact with Margrit Schulthess during the war and she occasionally stored artworks for him. In an interview Nathan Katz's son David recalls that Schulthess once unrightfully claimed a work by Stefan Lochner, stored by Nathan Katz in her Basle gallery, as hers. [Boumberger, Thomas. “Raubkunst - Kunstraub. Die Schweiz und der Handel mit gestohlenen Kulturgütern zur Zeit des Zweiten Weltkriegs.” Zürich: Orell Füssli, 1998, p. 293]. There is no evidence, however, that this work was The Madonna of the Flowering Pea (previously attributed to Lochner).

[9] After Nathan Katz's death in August 1949 the work was inherited by the Katz estate, represented by Nathan's son David. Apparently the painting was still on loan to Schulthess in Zurich, since she handled the shipment of the painting from Basle to the National Gallery of Canada in September 1952 [telegram, September 20, 1952, Accession records, NGC curatorial files]. See notes [7] and [8].

[10] Van Wisselingh acted as agent between David Katz and the National Gallery of Canada [see letter dated April 20, 1953, Accession records, NGC curatorial file].

[11] The painting was displayed at the National Gallery beginning in September 20, 1952 [See note 7] and eventually purchased in 1953. [Accession records, NGC curatorial file].

Research in progress



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