Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Grünewald, Matthias

(circa 1470-1528) German painter who seems never to have been known as Grünewald during his lifetime; his real surname may have been Gothardt, though he also used the surname Neithardt, which may have been his wife's name. His given name is sometimes rendered as Mathis. MG's obscurity is due partially to the times in which he lived – he was a Protestant, and may have been involved in the Peasants' War of 1524-1525 – and partially to the remarkable anguish of the work he produced. A late-medieval Gothic sensibility is agonizingly dramatized in his best work, through an expert knowledge of Renaissance perspective and other innovations. Not much survives; the only piece of direct fantasy interest is the right-hand panel of the third stage of the Isenheim Altarpiece (circa 1513-15), which depicts "The Temptation of Saint Anthony" as a Carnival in which every touch of talon or paw to flesh seems carnivorous. In Hieronymus Bosch's comparable "Temptation of Saint Anthony" there seems some chance the protagonist still retains an element of choice; in MG's vison, the saint seems on the verge of being ingested. [JC]

Matthias Grünewald


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.