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  • Tilman Riemenschneider, c. 1460-1531
  • Jane Campbell Hutchison
Julien Chapuis , ed. Tilman Riemenschneider, c. 1460–1531. Studies in the History of Art 65. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2004. 264 pp. index. illus. bibl. $65. ISBN: 0–300–10134–1.

This volume of symposium papers is a companion to the catalogue of the 1999 Riemenschneider exhibition (Tilman Riemenschneider: Master Sculptor of the Late Middle Ages, Julien Chapuis et al., 1999). The symposium, sponsored by the Mellon Foundation at CASVA (3–4 December 1999) allowed publication of information newly discovered during the conservation of objects for the exhibition, as well as providing new scholarship on major works impossible to lend. Edited by [End Page 649] Chapuis, associate curator of medieval art at The Cloisters, who arranged the exhibition, it comprises essays by fifteen conservators, curators, museum administrators, academics, and independent scholars, four of whom were contributors to the original catalogue.

An opening essay by Thomas A. Brady, Jr. explains the dual role of the prince-bishops of Riemenschneider's Würzburg, who wielded temporal as well as spiritual powers as both bishops and dukes of Franconia. Hartmut Krohm discusses the tomb effigy of Rudolf von Scherenberg in this connection.

Eike Oellerman, who restored Riemenschneider's Holy Blood altarpiece (Rothenburg) and discovered Riemenschneider's practice of coating his natural lindenwood pieces with pigmented glue sizing, sheds new light on the application of polychromy to much of the artist's work, also calling attention to the fact that in the 1950s many polychromed pieces were stripped of their colors, and of Riemenschneider's own monochrome layer as well, in the quest for "authenticity." In a similar vein, Rudolf Göbel of the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum and Christian-Herbert Fischer of the Hahn-Meitner Institut, Berlin report that Riemenschneider's Münnerstadt altarpiece (1492) was polychromed twelve years afterward by Veit Stoss, whose colors were removed in 1649. Axel Treptau reports on the results of laboratory examination of two polychromed groups from the artist's early Passion altarpiece, while Michele Marincola discusses Riemenschneider's use of decorative punchwork and freehand ornamental chiseling in his unpolychromed wood sculpture, and Claudia Lichte deals with a newly-discovered Madonna and Child (Würzburg), whose quality had been obscured by twenty-eight layers of paint.

Till-Holger Borchert's essay on taste and fashion in German funerary sculpture documents Riemenschneider's concurrent use of Gothic and Renaissance styles, depending on the taste of the client and function of the piece. Fritz Koreny examines the three drawings attributed to Riemenschneider, rejecting two, but providing useful information on the role of sculptors' drawings and of prints as model sheets. Bodo Buczynski, conservator at the Berlin Skulpturensammlung, speculates that Riemenschneider, whose first documented works were in stone, may have been trained in Strasbourg by Nicolas Gerhaert van Leyden, while Timothy Husband's essay concerns Riemenschneider's place in the tradition of alabaster carving. Iris Kalden-Rosenfeld discusses the Bamberg tomb and cult of Heinrich II in the context of contemporary tax issues.

The final three papers, by academics Jeffrey Chipps Smith, Keith Moxey, and Corine Schleif deal with the "afterlife" of Riemenschneider. Smith examines the sculptor's late years and waning productivity, relying increasingly on assistants, including his two sons. Moxey speaks to the abuse of the notion of style as a marker for national identity, providing a useful study of the Riemenschneider scholarship and popular literature produced during the Third Reich, beginning with Georg Dehio, and including several novels of the 1930s in which the sculptor appears either as crypto-National Socialist or anti-Italian craftsman, and ending with Thomas Mann's 1945 lecture featuring the sculptor as a champion of the [End Page 650] oppressed. Schleif's essay on the portraits and presumed self-portraits of the artist contrasts them to contemporary ones by Dürer, Adam Kraft, Peter Vischer, and Anton Pilgram, and also discusses his image in further historical fiction from the 1930s up to and including Joachim Tettenborn's play (1988) and Ursula Koch's short story, Zerbrochene Hände (1990), as well as in scholarly dissertations of the 1990s. She aptly notes that no other artist of Riemenschneider's age who left self-portraits...


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pp. 649-651
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Archived 2009
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