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The Cover
August 13, 2003

Studies of Peonies

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2003;290(6):711. doi:10.1001/jama.290.6.711

In his day, the German painter-engraver Martin Schongauer (c 1450-1491) was noted not for his engravings or for his drawings, as he is today, but for his paintings; many of them decorated churches in northern Europe. Contemporaries especially admired the sweet spirituality of his Gothic-style Madonnas and the gentleness of his Nativity scenes. Today, we know Schongauer's paintings mainly by attribution; only one, or perhaps two, have been positively identified as from his hand. But the engravings have endured, 115 of them, authenticated by the signature "MS." Some 100 drawings are also known, of which half are extant, the other half known from descriptions or copies. Only one pupil, Hans Burgkmair, is recorded, but Schongauer nevertheless left his mark on the entire northern Renaissance movement largely through his influence on other artists such as Dürer, Grünewald, Bosch, and Holbein. Dürer, in fact, traveled all the way to Colmar in 1492, hoping to join Schongauer's workshop, only to discover that he had recently died. Michelangelo and Rembrandt are known to have copied his engravings. In his turn, Schongauer owed a major artistic debt to the Netherlandish painter Rogier van der Weyden (JAMA cover, March 6, 1996). So pronounced was van der Weyden's influence on Schongauer's style, apparently, that when Giorgio Vasari came to write his biography a couple of generations later, he identified Schongauer not as German or Alsatian but as Flemish or Dutch.