This triple artwork was completed in 1503 and Durer used oil on lime panel for each of the three panels. Stephan and Lukas Paumgartner commissioned this project for St Catherine's Church in Nuremberg, one of a large number of orders for Durer coming from this city. There remains a slight bitterness between the city of origin of these works and the current location of many of them in Munich.
The opened triptych displays the theme of the nativity, with the side panels capturing St George (alongside a dragon) and St Eustace. Elements of their attire confirm their respective identities. There is some documentary evidence that the two saints carried the facial features of the two brothers who commissioned the piece, but this remains hard to confirm or reject with any great confidence.
The original artwork became yet another victim of serial art vandal, Hans-Joachim Bohlmann in 1988. This mentally unstable character left such severe damage to it that it would not reappear on public display for over 20 years. The value of damage was estimated at $12m but in truth it is hard to place a price on damaged original artwork from the Renaissance which can never be replaced.
Thankfully, modern techniques in restoration and security ensure that such incidents are considerably rarer and normally less serious when they do occur. Theft still remains a common problem but the large national galleries such as the Alte Pinakothek in Munich tend to feature amongst the best security of any type of institution.
Hans-Joachim Bohlmann would use concentrated sulfuric acid in his repeated attacks on famous artwork, damaging around 50 artworks in total over a period of around 20 years. Since passing away in 2009 many Northern European galleries will have been relieved at the end of this despicable campaign of destruction, which began with Golden Fish by Paul Klee.