Tilman Riemenschneider

Last updated

Tilman Riemenschneider
Tilman riemenschneider.jpg
Supposed self-portrait of Tilman Riemenschneider
Bornc. 1460
Died(1531-07-07)7 July 1531
NationalityGerman
Occupationsculptor
Years activec. 1473 until 1527

Tilman Riemenschneider (c. 1460 – 7 July 1531) was a German sculptor and woodcarver active in Würzburg from 1483. He was one of the most prolific and versatile sculptors of the transition period between the Late Gothic, to which he essentially belonged, and Northern Renaissance art, a master in stone and limewood. He was also a local politician in the council of Würzburg.

Contents

Most of his subjects are religious, including several very large and spectacular carved wood altarpieces, as well as tombs in stone, and statues. He was largely forgotten soon after his death, but rediscoved by art historians in the 19th century.

Biography

Holy Blood Altar in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1501-05 Rothenburg BW 17.JPG
Holy Blood Altar in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1501–05
Limewood carved figure of Saint George fighting the dragon (~ 1490). 0 St Georges terrassant le dragon -Tilman Rimenschneider.JPG
Limewood carved figure of Saint George fighting the dragon (~ 1490).

Tilman Riemenschneider was born around the year 1460 at Heiligenstadt im Eichsfeld in present-day Thuringia. [1] :2

When Riemenschneider was about five years old, his father was involved in a violent political conflict, the Mainzer Stiftsfehde  [ de ], so the family had to leave Heiligenstadt and all their possessions. They resettled in Osterode, where his father became Master of the Mint (a good position at that time) and where Riemenschneider spent his childhood years.

Riemenschneider likely came to Würzburg for the first time at the age of 18 in 1478/79. [1] :2 His uncle served as notary and financial advisor to the bishop there, but he did not stay for long. Around 1473, Riemenschneider learned the trade of sculpting and woodcarving, likely in Swabia or the Upper Rhine — possibly in Strasbourg and/or Ulm. At that time, the statutes of the guild of sculptors required that an apprentice travel to many different workshops to gain experience. Very little is known about this period of his life, but he likely came in contact with the work of Martin Schongauer, whose copper engravings served him later as examples.

In 1483, he settled in Würzburg. [1] :2 On 7 December 1483, he joined the Saint Luke's Guild of painters, sculptors, and glass workers as a painter's assistant. On 28 February 1485, he married Anna Schmidt (born Uchenhofer), a widow of a master goldsmith with three sons. This marriage not only brought him property, but it also meant that he could end his apprenticeship and become a master craftsman.

Also in 1485, Riemenschneider became a citizen of Würzburg, which made it possible to attain the status of master craftsman, and opened a workshop in Franziskanergasse, in the home of his wife. [1] :2

His earliest confirmed work is the gravestone of Eberhard von Grumbach in the Pfarrkirche at Rimpar. This may be the type of work he started out with before obtaining large church commissions. He started to receive numerous orders from the town councils of Würzburg and neighboring towns. The earliest large work attributed to him is the Franziskusaltar in the St Jakobskirche in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which is described in the church guide book as 'about 1490', but its style compared to other works of that date is rather primitive, suggesting it may be an earlier work, sometimes dated from 1485. [2] In 1490, the town council of Münnerstadt ordered an altarpiece for the altar of St Maria Magdalena, the parish church, which included a carving of Mary Magdalene with six angels. It was set up in 1492. In 1491, the town council of Würzburg ordered two life-sized stone figures of Adam and Eve for the south portal of the council's church, the Marienkapelle (erected in 1493). [1] :2

In 1494, Riemenschneider's first wife died, leaving him with three stepsons and a daughter. In keeping with the times and his status, he remarried Anna Rappolt in 1497. [1] :2 They had two daughters and three sons, all of whom seem to have inherited their father's artistic talent. In 1495, he created the statue of Mary with child (Pfarrkirche St Bernard in Würzburg).

More high-profile work followed: In 1496 Riemenschneider received the order to carve the tomb of Prince-Bishop Rudolf von Scherenberg at Würzburg Cathedral. It was delivered in 1499, the same year in which an order arrived for the Imperial tomb at Bamberg Cathedral (delivered 1513). [1] :2

By 1500, he had developed an outstanding reputation as an artist and had become a wealthy Würzburg citizen. Not only did he own a number of houses, but he also was a landowner with his own vineyards. His flourishing workshop provided work for as many as 40 apprentices doing woodcarving, sculpting, and painting.

In November 1504, Riemenschneider became a member of the Unterrat (councilman) of the town of Würzburg, an office he held until 1525. [1] :3 This office not only brought him social status, but it also helped him obtain many large and profitable orders.

In 1508, Riemenschneider married Margaretha Wurzbach. From 1509 until 1522 he was a member of the Oberrat four times. He married again, in 1520, a woman of whom only the first name, Margarethe, is known. In 1520/1, Riemenschneider was a mayor of Würzburg (in the Middle Ages there were always two people who held this position at the same time). [1] :3 [3] :28

His increasing engagement in local politics at a time of heavy order volume meant that his apprentices took a more prominent role in the creation of the workshop's output. Art historians have been able to identify specific figures as the work of individual workers. [1] :11–12

The Lamentation of Christ, Maidbronn Riemenschneider maidbronn.jpg
The Lamentation of Christ, Maidbronn
Detail of stone tomb of Rudolf von Scherenberg in Wurzburg Cathedral, (1496-1499). Scherenbergface.jpg
Detail of stone tomb of Rudolf von Scherenberg in Würzburg Cathedral, (1496–1499).

During the German Peasants' War, Riemenschneider was one of the town council members who refused to obey an order by Konrad von Thüngen, the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg to fight the revolting peasants. [1] :23 On 4 June 1525, the peasant's army was destroyed, with 8,000 killed, just outside Würzburg by the troops of Georg, Steward of Waldburg-Zeil, and the bishop. After the town surrendered, the full town council, including Riemenschneider, was incarcerated and tortured in Marienberg Fortress. The claim that both of his hands were broken during the torture, which ended his artistic career, is today considered to be a legend without base in fact. [1] :24 It probably only originated in the 19th century after his "rediscovery". [3] :24 Together with the rest of the council, Tilman was set free after two months, with loss of most of his property. The only order he is known to have received after this was work in 1527 for a Benedictine nunnery at Kitzingen. [1] :4,23 Until his death on 7 July 1531 at Würzburg, he led a retired life with his fourth wife. His son Jörg from his second marriage continued the workshop after his death.

Due to his loss of status, Riemenschneider was soon forgotten as an artist, other than for the two gravestones of Bishops Rudolf von Scherenberg and Lorenz von Bibra side by side in Würzburg Cathedral. Only when his gravestone was discovered in 1822 between Würzburg Cathedral and Neumünster was his outstanding position in Gothic sculpture recognized by a wider audience. Unlike Albrecht Dürer or Veit Stoss, Riemenschneider acquired true fame only posthumously. [3] :28

Art

Ascension of Mary Magdalene from the Magdalena Altarpiece, Munnerstadt (1490-1492), limewood, Mary Magdalen sporting thick body hair,Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich Tilman Riemenschneider Magdalena-3.jpg
Ascension of Mary Magdalene from the Magdalena Altarpiece, Münnerstadt (1490–1492), limewood, Mary Magdalen sporting thick body hair,Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich

The sculptures and woodcarvings of Tilman Riemenschneider are in the late Gothic style, although his later work show mannerist characteristics. Notably the tomb for Lorenz von Bibra (see below) is considered as one of the pieces marking the transition from Gothic to Renaissance art. His work is characterized by the expressiveness of the figurines' faces (often shown with an inward look, as in the 'self-portrait') and by their detailed and richly folded clothing. The emphasis on expression of inner emotions sets Riemenschneider's work apart from that of his immediate predecessors.

Riemenschneider's early success as a sculptor was due to the plasticity of his works, with great care being taken of modeling the folds of garments. This way of sculpting the garments as well as the typical oval faces and almond-shaped eyes were modelled on art from the Upper Rhine region of the 1470s, implying that Riemenschneider may have learned his trade either there or at Ulm. Later works lost some of the volume of the early sculptures, allowing a more efficient production. [1] :7–8

Riemenschneider is seen today as one of the first sculptors of the 15th century who did not have all his figures painted. Prior to the 1490s, almost every sculpture had been painted in several layers by a different artist, who often attracted more admiration than the sculptor. The reasons for shifting to a new type of art, where the wood was visible, are still debated by art historians. [1] :15

Saint Barbara, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum Tilman Riemenschneider Barbara-1.jpg
Saint Barbara, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum

Riemenschneider worked in both wood and stone. It is assumed he learned stone carving first and only later turned to wood carving. Some wooden figures, though unmistakably his own work, show some signs of less-than-perfect choice of wood or handling. [1] :17–18

Souren Melikian places Riemenschneider's best work, such as the Virgin listening to the Annunciation, in the same league as the oil paintings of Albrecht Dürer. Art historian Kenneth Clark views the Riemenschneider figures as showing the serious personal piety in Germany in the late fifteenth century and as harbingers of the coming Reformation. Among his successors and/or pupils were Peter Breuer  [ de ] and Philipp Koch.

Major works

Last Supper detail from Holy Blood Altar in Rothenburg ob der Tauber Rothenburg BW 16.JPG
Last Supper detail from Holy Blood Altar in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The largest collection of his work, 81 pieces, can be found in the Mainfränkisches Museum in the Fortress Marienberg in Würzburg.

In literature

Altar of Maria in Creglingen Tilman Riemenschneider Marienaltar.jpg
Altar of Maria in Creglingen

The character Goldmund in the 1930 book Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse serves as an apprentice with a master sculptor who is socially prominent in the town where he worked and whose character appears to be loosely based on that of Riemenschneider. He serves both as an artistic inspiration for Goldmund and as a foil for the less restrained temperament of Goldmund.

Hesse describes Riemenschneider's statue of Mary with child which resides in the Pfarrkirche St Bernard in Würzburg as:

"Dreamily she gazes out from her glass case, far away from our world... in her gracefulness and distinction she is refined to a degree of perfection far above that of mankind today."

The plot of Elizabeth Peters's first Vicky Bliss mystery novel, "Borrower of the Night" (1973) centers around the search for a missing Riemenschneider sculpture. Most of the action takes place in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Tilman Riemenschneider – Werke seiner Blütezeit (German). Freunde Mainfränkischer Kunst und Geschichte e.V. Würzburg. 2004.
  2. for this and other dating, see loc cit, p. 132 and following.
  3. 1 2 3 Dettelbacher, Werner (1974). Franken – Kunst, Geschichte und Landschaft (German). Dumont Verlag. ISBN   3-7701-0746-2.

Sources

Further reading

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Veit Stoss</span> German sculptor (1447–1533)

Veit Stoss was a leading German sculptor, mostly working with wood, whose career covered the transition between the late Gothic and the Northern Renaissance. His style emphasized pathos and emotion, helped by his virtuoso carving of billowing drapery; it has been called "late Gothic Baroque". He had a large workshop, and in addition to his own works there are a number by pupils. He is best known for the altarpiece in St. Mary's Basilica in Kraków, Poland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marienberg Fortress</span> Cultural heritage monument in Würzburg, Bavaria

Marienberg Fortress is a prominent landmark on the left bank of the Main river in Würzburg, in the Franconia region of Bavaria, Germany. It is a symbol of Würzburg and served as a home of the local prince-bishops for nearly five centuries. It has been a fort since ancient times, although most of the current structures were built in Renaissance and Baroque styles between the 16th and 18th centuries. After Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden conquered the area in 1631 during the Thirty Years' War, the castle was reconstructed as a Baroque residence. After it ceased to serve as residence of the Bishops of Würzburg, the fortress saw repeated action in the wars of the late 18th and 19th centuries. It was severely damaged by British bombs in March 1945 and only fully rebuilt in 1990. Today, it houses two museums.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Johann Peter Alexander Wagner</span> German sculptor

Johann Peter Alexander Wagner was a German rococo sculptor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thomas Quellinus</span> Flemish sculptor

Thomas Quellinus, also known, especially in Denmark, as Thomas Qvellinus, was a Flemish baroque sculptor. He was born in Antwerp as a member of the well-known Quellinus family of artists active in 17th century Antwerp. He worked most of his career in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he operated a workshop. He is especially known for the production of grandiose and sumptuous memorial chapels, sepulchral monuments and epitaphs, which can be found in churches throughout Denmark and northern Germany's Schleswig-Holstein area. His chapels and monuments are dramatically composed, executed in rare, differently coloured types of marble and framed by monumental architectural components.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Creglingen</span> Town in Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Creglingen is a town in the Main-Tauber district of Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It has around 4,700 inhabitants.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bamberg Cathedral</span> Church in Bamberg, Germany

Bamberg Cathedral is a church in Bamberg, Germany, completed in the 13th century. The cathedral is under the administration of the Roman Catholic Church and is the seat of the Archbishop of Bamberg. Since 1993, the cathedral has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Town of Bamberg".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aub</span> Town in Bavaria, Germany

Aub is a city in the district of Würzburg, in Bavaria, Germany. It is situated 29 kilometres (18 mi) southeast of Würzburg, and 21 kilometres (13 mi) northwest of Rothenburg ob der Tauber and, nearby the border of Baden-Württemberg.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lorenz von Bibra</span>

Lorenz von Bibra, Duke in Franconia was Prince-Bishop of the Bishopric of Würzburg from 1495 to 1519. His life paralleled that of Maximilian I (1459–1519), who ruled the Holy Roman Empire from 1493 to 1519, whom Lorenz served as an advisor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bibra family</span>

The House of Bibra was one of the leading Uradel families in Franconia and present day Thuringia from the mid-15th century to about 1600. Later on the family rose from Reichsritter to Reichsfreiherr. After the Holy Roman Empire dissolved, they were made ‘’Freiherr’‘ (Barons) of Bavaria and Bohemia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rudolf von Scherenberg</span> German bishop of Wurzburg

Rudolf II von Scherenberg was Bishop of Würzburg from 1466 until his death 30 years later. His longevity and long reign were significant.

Bibra is a former municipality in the district Schmalkalden-Meiningen, in Thuringia, Germany. From December 1, 2007 it is part of Grabfeld.

Events from the year 1505 in art.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roman Catholic Diocese of Würzburg</span> German diocese established in 741

The Diocese of Würzburg is a Latin Church diocese of Catholic Church in Germany. The diocese is located in Lower Franconia, around the city of Würzburg, and the bishop is seated at Würzburg Cathedral. Founded in 741, the diocese lost all temporal power after the Napoleonic wars.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Damià Forment</span>

Damià Forment was a Valencian Spanish architect and sculptor, considered the most important Spanish sculptor of the 16th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Würzburg Cathedral</span> Church in Würzburg, Germany

Würzburg Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Würzburg in Bavaria, Germany, dedicated to Saint Kilian. It is the seat of the Bishop of Würzburg and has served as the burial place for the Prince-Bishops of Würzburg for hundreds of years. With an overall length of 103 metres, it is the fourth largest Romanesque church building in Germany, and a masterpiece of German architecture from the Salian period. Notable later additions include work by Tilman Riemenschneider and Balthasar Neumann. The cathedral was heavily damaged by British bombs in March 1945 but rebuilt post-World War II.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St. James's Church, Rothenburg ob der Tauber</span>

St. James is a Lutheran church in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany, which serves as a church on the pilgrimage route to St. James Church in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It has two towers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Franciscan Friary, Rothenburg ob der Tauber</span>

The Franciscan Friary of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a former friary of the Conventual Franciscans in the town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Bavaria in the diocese of Bamberg. Nowadays the former Franciscan church is an Evangelical Lutheran parish church.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Würzburg</span> Place in Bavaria, Germany

Würzburg is, after Nuremberg and Fürth, the third-largest city in Franconia located in the north of Bavaria. Würzburg is the administrative seat of the Regierungsbezirk Lower Franconia. It spans the banks of the Main river.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marienkirche, Würzburg</span> Church in Marienberg Fortress, Germany

The Marienkirche, Würzburg is a chapel located in the inner court of Marienberg Fortress in Würzburg, Bavaria. The first Christian church at this location was built in 706 by Duke Hedan II. The structure of today's building can be traced back to the early 11th century. It is the oldest church in Würzburg and the oldest building in the fortress.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marienkapelle, Würzburg</span> Church in Würzburg, Germany

The Marienkapelle is a Roman Catholic church located at the Unterer Markt of the town of Würzburg, Bavaria. It was built in the Gothic style in the 14th century. Despite its large size, it is a chapel by status, as it does not have a parish. Today it is administered by the united parishes of the Würzburg Cathedral and the Kollegiatstift Neumünster.