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Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History Essays

Late Medieval German Sculpture

Ecclesiastic decoration, especially for winged altarpieces, was in great demand in the fifteenth and early sixteenth century, and sculpture workshops flourished in Central Europe as never before. Several individuals stand out among the creative talents of the time: Niclaus Gerhaert von Leiden (Standing Virgin and Child, 1996.14), Veit Stoss, and Tilman Riemenschneider (1970.137.1). All three mastered carving in both wood and stone, and produced works for a variety of purposes: the decoration of churches and houses (Virgin and Child, 1986.340), sculpted retables, and objects for private devotion. With a keen business sense, they sold inventive sculpture of great refinement, as well as more modest works that could be entrusted to an assistant following a model (Baptism of Christ, 12.130.1). The mobility of late medieval artists ensured the dissemination of styles over wide geographic areas. For example, echoes of the Schöne Stil (Beautiful Style) practiced in Prague around 1400 (Pietà, 2001.78), are found as far afield as Strasbourg and Poland. Likewise, Niclaus Gerhaert probably studied sculpture by Claus Sluter in Dijon, before working in Mainz, Strasbourg, Constance, and Vienna.