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February 10 - May 14, 2000
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall

This press kit for Tilman Riemenschneider: Master Sculptor of the Late Middle Ages includes a general release about the exhibition, immediately following, as well as a statement from Bayerische Landesbank, the exhibition's sponsor.

This spring, for the first time in nearly seven decades, the sculptural genius of Tilman Riemenschneider (active in Würzburg, Germany, 1483-1531) will be the focus of a major survey exhibition. Highly regarded in Europe for his technical virtuosity in wood and stone, and for his sensitive blending of religious subject matter with a deeply felt appreciation for humanity, Riemenschneider is among the major artists of his time, yet he is little known in this country. Some 60 sculptures representing 45 ensembles — including polychrome as well as monochrome works — have been assembled from museums, churches, and private collections in Europe and America for Tilman Riemenschneider: Master Sculptor of the Late Middle Ages, the first-ever international presentation of the sculptor's life and work. Examples of sculpture by important predecessors and contemporaries (Niclaus Gerhaert von Leiden, Michel Erhart, and Veit Stoss) as well as a number of engravings by Martin Schongauer, and a display of sculpting tools of the kind Riemenschneider might have used. The exhibition opens at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on February 10.

The exhibition is made possible in part by Bayerische Landesbank.

It is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

An indemnity has been granted by the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

"The sculpture of Tilman Riemenschneider is among the most evocative of the late Middle Ages," commented Philippe de Montebello, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Truly a master artist, who worked with equal virtuosity in such diverse materials as limewood, sandstone, and alabaster, Riemenschneider was uniquely able to blend elegance of form with strength of expression. Although a number of museums can boast of having one or two of his works in their collections, this exhibition — which brings together several dozen of his masterpieces from collections on both sides of the Atlantic — will provide a rare glimpse into the totality of Riemenschneider's oeuvre."

Details of the sculptor's early life are scarce, but it is known that he was born in Heiligenstadt in Thuringia in about 1460. By the time he moved to the Franconian town of Würzburg in 1483, he was already fully trained as an artist, and was employed in a sculptor's workshop. Having acquired the title of "master" in 1485 — which meant that he was permitted to sell sculpture under his own name — he opened a workshop of his own and was awarded numerous commissions throughout Franconia. A respected member of Würzburg society, Riemenschneider served on the municipal council and was even elected mayor for the period 1520-21. His personal as well as professional career came to an abrupt halt, however, during the Peasants' Revolt of 1525. As a member of the municipal council that opposed the prince-bishop of Würzburg, who wished to move his troops into the town and use it as a center of defense in the uprising, Riemenschneider was imprisoned and possibly tortured. Although he is listed as having performed minor repairs on some sculptures in 1528, no new carvings are known to have been made by him after the Revolt. Riemenschneider died in 1531.

A contemporary of the noted painter, printmaker, and theoretician Albrecht Dürer, Riemenschneider developed a highly personalized artistic vision of his own, as one of the first sculptors to abandon polychromy (the application of color to sculpture) on selected works, leaving visible his favored material, limewood. The dramatic contrast between Riemenschneider's monochrome wood sculpture and several figures that have retained much of their original polychromy will be appreciated through the presentation in the exhibition of both kinds of works.

Noteworthy among the polychrome sculpture in the exhibition is a group of four figures — two works representing deacons, lent by the Cleveland Museum of Art, and two of female saints, from the collection of the Historisches Museum in Frankfurt am Main — thought to have been carved for the same altarpiece.

Other figures that once belonged to the same ensembles but have long since been dispersed will also be on view. Among the most notable are two groups from a monumental altarpiece depicting the Holy Kinship — the family of the Virgin Mary — lent by the Württembergisches Landesmuseum, Stuttgart, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. A revelation will be the display of two virtually unpublished Female Saints in private collections, which will be shown with a third figure from the same retable (altarpiece), a Saint Elizabeth, now in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg.

The Skulpturensammlung of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin has agreed to the unprecedented loan of 12 key works, including such masterpieces as the Noli me Tangere and the Evangelists (Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint Luke, and Saint John) from Riemenschneider's 1490-92 Münnerstadt altarpiece. Four works from the permanent collection of the Metropolitan — among them the limewood Seated Bishop, a striking depiction of the physiognomy of an old man — will also be on view.

The broad range of Riemenschneider's artistic production will be illustrated by elements from altarpieces, cult figures, objects of private devotion, sculpture with a secular function, and models he carved for assistants.

Like other great sculptors of the late Middle Ages, Riemenschneider was proficient in a variety of materials — wood as well as stone. The impressive Enthroned Saint Anne with the Virgin and Child ("Anna Selbdritt"), lent by the Mainfränkisches Museum, Würzburg, bears eloquent witness to the sculptor's mastery of sandstone sculpture. The exhibition will also reunite Riemenschneider's five extant carvings in alabaster, exquisite works that are relatively little known.

To place Riemenschneider's achievements within a broader context, the exhibition will also include several particularly fine works by his most important predecessors. Riemenschneider's conception of sculpture as a "kinetic" experience — in which the viewer is drawn to move around the work either physically or with the mind's eye — derived from Niclaus Gerhaert von Leiden (active 1460-73, died 1473) of Strasbourg, who will be represented in the exhibition by an exquisite boxwood carving of the Standing Virgin and Child, from the collection of the Metropolitan. The introspective, almost elegiac, quality of Riemenschneider's work, on the other hand, can be drawn from Michel Erhart (ca. 1440-1522) of Ulm, and from Ulm sculpture in general, as exemplified by the countenance and pose of Erhart's tender and pensive Seated Virgin and Child, from the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Skulturensammlung. Riemenschneider's intimate familiarity with the work of engraver Martin Schongauer (1445 or 1450-1491) is apparent in the rich tonal range of his sculpture, as will be demonstrated by the juxtapostion to several works on paper, from the collection of the Metropolitan.

In contrast to Riemenschneider's restrained spirituality is the theatrical exuberance of his most important contemporary, Veit Stoss (1438 or 1439-1533) of Nuremberg. The dramatic grouping, Archangel Raphael and the Young Tobias, from the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, will place the work of these two sculptors in vivid counterpoint.

Educational Programs and Audio Guide
A variety of programs and educational resources will be scheduled in conjunction with the exhibition. These will include lectures, concert, films, and gallery talks for general visitors and programs for teachers.

Educational programs have been supported in part by the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation.

An audio tour, part of the Metropolitan's new Key to the Met Audio Guide, is available for rental in the Museum's Great Hall ($5; $4.50 for members).

The Key to the Met Audio Guide program is sponsored by Bloomberg News.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 352-page catalogue with 134 color plates and 152 black-and-white illustrations. Contributors include, from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Julien Chapuis, Assistant Curator; Timothy B. Husband, Curator; and William D. Wixom, Curator Emeritus, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters; and Michele Marincola, Associate Conservator, The Cloisters. Other contributors are Michael Baxandall, Professor Emeritus, University of London, Warburg Institute, and University of California, Berkeley; Till-Holger Borchert, Aachen University; Stephan Kemperdick, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main; and Hartmut Krohm, Chief Curator, Skulpturensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. The catalogue explores the sources for Riemenschneider's art, his social milieu and the organization of his workshop, the critical reception of his work, and his polychrome and monochrome sculpture. Photographs commissioned especially for the book present the great altarpieces in Rothenburg on the Tauber and Creglingen, as well as the large stone sculpture in Würzburg and Maidbronn. The book is the first publication in English with color reproductions of a significant portion of Riemenschneider's oeuvre. Published in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and distributed by Yale University Press, the hardbound catalogue is available for $65 in the Museum's Bookshops.

The publication is made possible by the Doris Duke Fund for Publications.

The exhibition is organized by Julien Chapuis, Assistant Curator in the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters. Exhibition design is by Daniel Bradley Kershaw, Exhibition Designer of the Museum's Design Department.

Travel Itinerary
Prior to its presentation at the Metropolitan, the exhibition was on view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., from October 3, 1999 until January 9, 2000.

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Munich-based Bayerische Landesbank is a universal bank whose global operations and international resources enable it to provide its clients with a broad range of financial and banking services. The bank is represented in major financial centers in twenty-six countries throughout the world. It operates as a wholesale bank with some seven thousand associates conducting business with large corporations, institutional investors, and high net-worth individuals. The bank also focuses on foreign exchange trading and international financing, including venture capital, forfaiting operations, syndicated loans, and private placements. Bayerische Landesbank, which ranks among the six leading banks of the Federal Republic of Germany, is one of the largest issuers of fixed-income securities and a major corporate lender in Germany. Its debt carries the highest short- and long-term ratings by the international rating agencies (Moody's: P-I, Aaa; Standard and Poor's A-I+, AAA; FitchIBCA: FI+, AAA). The bank's principal strengths lie within its substantial Euro deposit base and long-term fixed-rate loan capabilities in the Euro and other major world currencies.

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February 8, 2000

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