A new discovery has been made on the walls of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. High on the plastered porch walls of the bishop’s portal (an area that now serves as the Cathedral’s gift shop) hides a wall painting thought to, at least in part, have been done by the hands of Albrecht Dürer.
The image appears to be a triptych, depicting St. Catherine and St. Margaret flanking St. Leopold III, a patron saint of Austria.
Experts and specialists met in November 2019 and have determined that the underdrawing (the part of the painting most likely done by Dürer himself) was executed around 1505. However, there is no known recorded mention of Dürer ever visiting Vienna, and he only created one other wall painting, a large mural done in Nuremberg (1521), sadly destroyed during WWII.
Dürer specialist, Erwin Pokorny, when questioned by the Art Newspaper, stated that he first assumed the underdrawing was done by Dürer’s assistants, but after close examination he believes “none of Dürer’s assistants or followers were able to reach the quality of the underdrawing’s virtuous brushstrokes” and therefore believes that “the question is not whether but when Dürer was in Vienna.”
St. Stephen’s has now planned a cleaning and examination campaign of the mysterious wall painting. Further information gained through the scheduled treatment and analysis will be published later this year in the Austrian art conservation journal, Österreichische Zeitschrift für Kunst und Denkmalpflege.
(Original story in the February-March 2020 "News in Conservation" Issue 76, p. 6)