The Censer

Martin Schongauer German

Not on view

Although trained and active as a painter, Martin Schongauer’s engravings are undoubtedly his most important contribution to the history of art. The larger part of his oeuvre consists of religious subjects, but he also focused on genre scenes, animal portraits, heraldry, and, from time to time, ornament and design. The Crozier (bishop’s staff) and The Censer are two of his masterpieces in this area, and remind us of his family’s involvement in the field of goldsmith’s work. The Censer, in particular, is celebrated for its vivid three-dimensional rendition, displayed for example in the magnificent draping of the chains on the left side of the print. The life-like qualities of the object have led some to suggest that Schongauer might have been working after an existing censer, rather than trusting a new idea to paper. Such a model has not survived, however, and we cannot exclude the idea that we are here misled by Schongauer’s mastery as a draftsman and printmaker.

The Censer, Martin Schongauer (German, Colmar ca. 1435/50–1491 Breisach), Engraving

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