This painting was attributed to various anonymous masters stylistically associated with the northern Netherlandish school until the art historians Boon and Eisler gave it to a follower of the Master of the Virgo inter Virgines. Eisler also attributed a panel of The Marriage of the Virgin (Philadelphia Museum of Art) to this painter. Together with the present panel, they may have formed part of a triptych whose central panel has not been identified. In the present work the artist located the twelve Apostles around a table. Christ, seated on the left, is recognisable through the figure of Saint John reclining on his lap and from his gesture of offering bread to Judas. The artist places considerable emphasis on the simple still life on the table, in which striking elements include the large empty dish in the centre and the objects such as a pitcher and knives arranged in a circle around it.
The present artist, whose figures convey something of the expressivity found in works by the Master of the Virgo inter Virgines, depicts the twelve Apostles in a plain interior. The saints are arranged around a wide table, which the artist has failed to fit into the pictorial space with absolute perspectival correctness. On the left we see Christ in profile, who can be identified by the presence of Saint John resting his head in his lap and the bread that Christ offers Judas, who leans his head on the table in order to take the communion. The artist depicts the moment recounted in the Gospel of Saint John just after Christ has said “one of you shall betray me”, when Saint John, leaning against Christ, asks him who it will be and Christ replies: “‘He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it’. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon”. Rather than analyzing the reactions of the Apostles to Christ’s pronouncement, the artist focuses on Judas’ act of betrayal as he takes the sop.
This anonymous painter placed considerable emphasis on the simple still life on the table. The dazzling white cloth functions to highlight the large, round, empty platter in the centre, surrounded almost in the form of a circle by three small loaves and two metallic dishes. The knives and jugs of wine serve to accentuate this arrangement.
A Pietà in a private collection is also attributed to this painter.