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Journal > Volumes > 41 (2010) / 1 (Spring)
Civic Charity, Civic Virtue: The Master of Alkmaar’s Seven Works of Mercy
John R. Decker
Georgia State University

The Seven Works of Mercy by the Master of Alkmaar presents several conundrums. The archivalia concerning its commission and use no longer exist and the identity of the artist is in dispute. Further, damage done to the panels during the sixteenth century and the subsequent repairs put art historians on shaky ground when trying to interpret the series as a whole. Consequently, it is one of the most challenging, and perhaps least understood, objects in the history of northern art. These difficulties aside, something of its function can still be gleaned by turning to the historical realities of Alkmaar in the decade preceding the panels’ execution. This article works to reconstruct the context in which and for which the Seven Works of Mercy was made. Specifically, it is argued that these panels constituted a clear political statement designed to repair the city’s shattered reputation and argue for the return of its lost rights.

Pages: 3 - 28