Around 1528 Hans Holbein painted one of his most revered master-pieces of the heavenly crowned Madonna, originally called the Madonna with the Family Meyer, later the Darmstadt Madonna. In 2002 the princely house of Hessen decided to sell it.
Jakob Meyer was mayor and banker in Basel and the painting is of the crowned Madonna covering him and his family with her cape. Luckily it survived the iconoclasm in Basel to surface later in Paris. Finally it ended up in the castle in Darmstadt belonging to the Princely house of Hesse. Since 2003 it has been exhibited in Frankfurt at the Städel, but recently the “Haus of Hesse” decided to put it up for sale. It has been estimated that the painting might have ended up costing more than a $ 100 million on the international market. However, being registered as a national heritage, any export of the painting is forbidden by German laws. The final price has not been disclosed, but rumours has it that it approached the sum of $ 70 million. The buyer, Reinhold Würt, is a well known billionaire recognised for his keen interest in art. He has pledged that the painting will remain on view to the public. It is presumed that the painting will be placed on view at the restored Johanitterhalle in Schwäbisch Hall where other “Old Masters” are exhibited. To the chagrin of the curators at Städel. The money from the sale will be used to restore the “Fasanerie” - a beautiful baroque palace near Fulda.
A Baseler Mayor
Jakob Mayer (1482 – 1531) was son of a papermaker in Basel. Early on he entered the group of bankers and made a fortune out of his banking business as well as his military career in the catholic army of the Pope. He ended up as the first non-noble mayor of Basel and it was later said of him that he was “the hare that jumped the nobles” – the nickname, “the hare”, stemming from the name of his house in the main square of Basel. Then, however, he had withdrawn from his political career and lived as a rentier on his small manor in Gundeldingen. It is thought that the Madonna was hung in the chapel of this small castle and was meant as an expression of catholic resistence against the reformation.
Apart from the Madonna there exists a double portrait of Jakob Mayer and his second wife Dorothea, which is now hung in the Baseler Artmuseum
The presumed location for the future exhibition of the Darmstadt Madonna, die Johanitterhalle
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