Master Francke, St. Barbara Altar: Left and right wings

First half of 15th century
Kansallismuseo, Helsinki, Finland

These are the left and right wings of the altarpiece. The narrative follows a version of the legend quite close to that used by Caxton, but it omits any reference to God's interventions on the first and second days of Barbara's passion.

Also, in Caxton's arraignment scene she responds to the judge's command with a vivid argument against idolatry that traces ultimately to Jeremiah 10:1-9, whereas in Master Francke she merely casts a demure glance to the ground.

The narrative reads from left to right across the top four panels, then left to right across the bottom four:

  1. Top left: With her fingers, Barbara explains the tower and the Trinity to her father, Dioscorus.
  2. Top, left of center: She flees her father's sword, escaping to the hills.
  3. Top, right of center: In the hills, an evil shepherd betrays her to her father.
  4. Top right: He puts her in prison.
  5. Bottom left: She is arraigned before the judge.
  6. Bottom, left of center: At the judge's orders, she is stripped and whipped.
  7. Bottom, right of center: The next day, she is hanged between two poles and tortured naked. (See detail.)
  8. Bottom right: Dioscorus beheads his daughter.

More of St. Barbara

Source: Wikimedia Commons