Naming convention of the “Masters”

All the paintings in the exhibition are anonymous apart from two signed works and five panels authenticated by a document. In the fifteenth century works were almost never signed, and those that have been conserved can rarely be associated with any of the many painters mentioned in archives.

Beginning at the start of the twentieth century, these anonymous paintings were classified and grouped on the basis of stylistic similarities. Each group has been attributed to an individual “Master”, who by convention is identified by either the name of one of the paintings in the group (Master of the Legend of St Catherine, Master of the Legend of St Barbe, Master of the Legend of the Magdalen), or a series of paintings (Master of the Life of Joseph) or a characteristic (Master of the Embroidered Foliage, Master of the View of St Gudule).

With the aid of modern techniques, such as infrared reflectography, it is possible to distinguish various participants, or “hands”, in each group. Consequently, today a group represents the production of one or more studios, each of which would have numbered several artists, and not the output of a single painter.