The Altar of Tyrol Castle
a Research Project
The altar of Tyrol Castle is a treasure in many respects: it is a masterpiece of Gothic art as well as a document of the Tyrolean history, and it became an item of the Ferdinandeum inventory at an early stage. The oldest, largely intact winged altarpiece of the Alpine region originates from the upper chapel of Tyrol Castle near Merano. Its so-called “Sunday side” shows scenes taken from the life of Mary. The coats of arms and the noble founders – the Habsburg Dukes Leopold III and Albrecht III – depicted at the outside of the wings, indicate that the altar was created in connection with a specific political event: the inclusion of the Tyrol into the House of Habsburg.
In 1948 Vinzenz Oberhammer, the then curator of the museum, published the only extensive monograph of this precious artwork so far. The following 70 years were also a period of intensive research on the altarpiece. Consequently, we know today a lot about its liturgical and political functions, the iconographic program and the eventful history of its provenance. However, is the shrine actually made of beech wood? Do preliminary drawings hide under the surface? What kinds of interventions have been made on this high-class artwork since its creation, and how should its current state be assessed? In April 2016, the Tyrolean State Museums launched a research project with the objective of receiving new answers by means of a broad variety of methods for investigation, as well as of encouraging internal and external experts to share their knowledge. Another aim is to develop a forward-looking concept for the preservation and restoration of this exquisite work of art.
During the term of the project by 2020, the altar of Tyrol Castle will be exhibited in a specially designed room within the permanent exhibition of the Ferdinandeum. Its presentation in the context of this open, interdisciplinary process is intended to demonstrate that museums are also lively places of research. The results will leave their marks in the exhibition space, but will also be the basis for a comprehensive publication. Following the concept of a participatory opening-up of museums, this blog will report regularly about the progress of the project and thus exceed the physical location of the museum.