Renaissance Sculpture In Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, And England

GERMANY: THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY. The Renaissance, as a classic or Italian movement, made itself felt slowly in Germany. The Germans were sluggish in their appreciation of formal beauty. They emphasized inward significance, sentiment, and reality, and at first regarded beauty of form as superficial. As a naturalistic movement, however, the fifteenth century signified for Germany, as it did for Italy, a return to nature and a revival of sculpture. The South German schools at Nuremberg, Wurzburg, in Swabia, Bavaria, and the Tyrol, received something of an impulse from Italy, while the schools of the Middle and Lower Rhine, Saxony, Prussia, and the northern provinces were more closely connected with the art of the Netherlands. In South Germany the most influential school was that of Nuremberg, best represented by Michael Wohlgemuth, Veit Stoss, Adam Kraft, and Peter Vischer.

Michael Wohlgemuth (1434–1519) was equally distinguished as painter, engraver, and sculptor. Such men were as rare in Germany as they were common in Italy. His Deposition in the Kreuzkapelle at Nuremberg is simple in composition and contains figures of marked individuality. Veit Stoss (1440–1533) was the most renowned of German wood-carvers. His early work at Krakau, though Gothic in treatment, was nevertheless characterized by formal symmetry. His later work at Nuremberg exhibited a more developed, though superficial beauty. The work by which he is best known is in the Lorenzkirche, and represents an Annunication set in a carved wreath of roses, with medallions of scenes from the life of the Virgin.

Adam Kraft (1450 ?–15o7) reached distinction as a stone-carver. His earliest dated works, the Seven Stages of the Journey to Calvary (1490), placed at intervals along the road to the Johannis cemetery, were pathetic and realistic, though crowded in composition and unequal in execution. His reliefs of Christ bearing the Cross, the Entombment, and the Resurrection in the Schreyer sepulchral monument on the exterior of the Sebalduskirche were richer and more picturesque. Greater symmetry and beauty characterized his relief of the City Scales over the gateway of the, Civic Weighing House. His most remarkable work is the magnificent free standing tabernacle which reaches to the ceiling of the Lorenzkirche, -and is enriched with figured sculpture.

Peter Vischer (146o–1529) was the foremost of the German bronze-casters. Early works of his are to be found in Magdeburg and in Breslau. His most important monument is the shrine of St. Sebaldus at Nuremberg, begun in 1507 and finished in 1519. In the sculptural portions of this shrine we see, for the first time, strong Italian influence in the pose and proportions of the figures, in the drapery, in the emphasis put upon the human form, and in the use of nude figures. The relief sculptures upon the shrine also evinced Italian methods of composition. This may have been due to the visit of Albrecht Durer to Venice, al-though of his own sons who became his assist-ants, it is certain that Hermann, and probably Peter Vischer the Younger, visited Italy. In 1513 he made for the remarkable monument of Kaiser Maximilian at Innsbruck the noteworthy statues of King Arthur and King Theodoric.

THE WURZBURG SCHOOL held an inter-mediate position between the Nuremberg and the Swabian school. It produced two important sculptors, the anonymous Master of the Altar of the Herrgottskirche at Creglingen and Tilman Riemenschneider. The altar at Creglingen (1487) was thoroughly Gothic, not only in its architecture but in sentiment and in treatment; but a head of Adam in the South Kensington Museum, attributed to the same master, shows a formal beauty suggestive of Italian influence. Tilman Riemenschneider (1460-1531) represented a somewhat more advanced style. His Adam and Eve in the portal of the Marienkirche remind us of Venetian and Lombard work, and his draped figures show a broader treatment than was customary in purely German sculpture. His masterpiece, the tomb of Heinrich II. and his wife Kunigunde (1513) in the cathedral at Bamberg, shows, however, that Italian methods had by no means overcome his local style.

THE SWABIAN SCHOOL represented grace and charm rather than dramatic power. This is evident in the work of Friedrich Herlin for the high altar of the Jakobskirche at Rothenburg (1466), in the almost Italian crucifix in the Hauptkirche at Nordlingen, in the beautiful choir stalls by Jorg Syrlin in Ulm Cathedral, and in the famous high altar at Blaubeuren.

BAVARIA AND THE AUSTRIAN TYROL showed even more strongly the infusion of influences from Venice and the north of Italy. The richly decorative and charming altar in the church at St. Wolfgang by the most distinguished sculptor of this district, Michael Pacher of Bruneck, is like a carved picture by an early Venetian painter. The same is true, in lesser degree, of many other altars of the Tyrol.

MIDDLE AND NORTH GERMANY. The art of the Netherlands was the determining influence here. In this may be detected a pictorial rather than a sculptural sense, greater attention to detail than to mass, and a fondness for many figures in composition. In the Middle Rhine region, in the cathedrals of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz, stone was preferred to wooden sculpture. But there were here no sculptors of importance. In the Lower Rhine region, Prussia and North Germany, wood-carving was preferred to stone, and the influence of the Netherlands was still more apparent. In fact, Flemish and Dutch sculptors are known to have produced many important works in this part of Germany. The records show that the high altar at the parish church at Calcar was the work of a sculptor from the Netherlands. If we turn from this to the magnificent altar in the cathedral at Schleswig (1515-1521), with its twenty panels of carved groups, we will recognize the source from which Hans Bruggeman drew his inspiration.

In Saxony, northern and southern influences were sometimes united in the production of works which are not without charm, such as the ” beautiful portal ” of the church at Anna-berg, and the pulpit in the form of a flower in the cathedral at Freiberg.

THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY. Toward the middle of the sixteenth century the development of German sculpture was arrested by the influence of foreign styles. In Southern Germany and Austria, Italian architecture brought with it Italian sculptural decoration. Renaissance pilasters decorated with floral or candelabra designs, cabinet columns, portrait medallions, dolphins, sirens, and other North Italian motives were freely employed. At the same time, the peculiar forms of Flemish Renaissance decoration, arabesques, curling band ornament, and grotesque figures, found their way into Southern as well as Northern Germany. It was not a period for great monuments. The resultant style was a hybrid form of the Italian Renaissance.

THE SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES. During the early seventeenth century the Thirty Years’ War had absorbed the energies of Germany. This resulted in equal rights to Catholics and Protestants. Accordingly, in the second half of this century and throughout the eighteenth century we find alongside of each other the Rococo or Jesuit style of architecture, with its elaborate figured ornamentation, and the barren style of the Protestants. The Catholic affiliations were with Italy, those of the Protestants with the Netherlands. A new influence, that of France, now made itself felt, especially in aristocratic circles.

The German sculptor who stands out prominently in the seventeenth century is Andreas Schluter (1664-1714). That he was not altogether free from Berninesque methods is evident from his marble pulpit in the Marienkirche in Berlin, the canopy of which, with its carved pediment, is covered with a mass of angels clambering upon marble clouds. The same influence is perceptible in his harmonious equestrian statue of the Great Elector Friedrich III. and in the decorations of the Schloss at Berlin. His most vigorous original work, the tragic masks of Dying Warriors, is in the court of the Berlin Arsenal. Georg Raphael Donner (1692-1741), in the succeeding century, represented for South Germany and Austria a classic reaction against the Rococo methods, and thus prepared the way for the new era of modern sculpture. His chef-d’oeuvre is the Fountain in the New Market at Vienna.

THE NETHERLANDS. In the Netherlands, sculpture in the fifteenth century remained thoroughly Gothic. Though subsidiary to architecture, it was held in higher esteem than painting. High altars, for the most part, consisted of biblical scenes carved in wood in the most elaborate manner. The minor portions of these altars, such as the enclosing doors or wings, were frcquently decorated by paintings.

The destruction of many of these altars by the Protestants and the scattering of Netherland sculptors into France, Germany, Spain, England, and Italy make it difficult to obtain a proper estimate of the sculpture of the Netherlands. Still, its general course of development is clear. In the archives at Amsterdam there is preserved a series of statuettes of counts and countesses of Holland, which, in stiffness of attitude, in costume, and in quaintness of style, remind us of the figures in the pictures of Van Eyck. The rising importance of the. school of Brussels may be illustrated by a magnificent altar-piece with scenes from the type of the Virgin, belonging to the church at Lombeek Notre Dame. In freedom of composition and naturalism this altar-piece is not behind the contemporary works of Flemish painting.

In the sixteenth century the style of the Renaissance was introduced. Much that was peculiarly Flemish still remained, but, at the same time, Italian influences were strongly felt. The stalls of the church at Dordrecht, by Jan Terwen (1538-1542), might almost be taken as the prototype for Lescot and Goujon’s jube at St. Germain l’Auxerrois. More thoroughly under the influence of the developed Renaissance of Italy was the marble altar made by Jacques Dubroeucq in 1549 for a chapel in the cathedral at Mons.

In the seventeenth century the school of Antwerp came to the front, and the Rubens of Flemish sculpture, Francois Duquesncy (1594-1644), exerted a wide influence. In spite of the Italian character of his style, Duquesnoy preserved a dignity and distinction of manner which remind us of the great sculptors of France. He is best known by the monuments he left in Italy, but a fine example of his work may be seen in the carved panels and choir stalls of the church of Notre Dame At Dendermonde. His pupil, Artus Quellinus (1609-1668), was a highly gifted sculptor, whose influence extended from Amsterdam into the north of Germany.

The eighteenth century witnessed a decline in the sculptural art of the Netherlands, although now and then excellent wood-carving continued to be done, as in the vigorous statues over the stalls of the church at Wouw.

SPAIN. In Spain, upon the basis laid in the Gothic period by architects and sculptors from France, there arose in the fifteenth century a transitional style, stimulated by Flemish influence, which was in turn succeeded in the sixteenth century by a more monumental sculpture under the guidance of Italian artists.

Immense tombs by Florentine, and especially by Lombard artists, were erected in many important churches, Italian artists took up their residence in Spain, and Italian methods of decoration were generally substituted for the Gothic. The tomb of Ferdinand and Isabella at Granada is a fine example of Italian work in Spain. In the seventeenth century, Montables (d. 1614) and Alonso Cano (1600–1667) represented the later phases of the Spanish Renaissance.

ENGLAND. In England there were few native sculptors during the Renaissance period. The engraved sculptural slabs in bronze of the fifteenth century, and many decorative sculptures, were executed or inspired by sculptors from the Nether-lands. In the sixteenth century more monumental works, and Italian methods, were introduced by Pietro Torrigiano (1472-1522) and by Benedetto da Rovezzano. The former designed the first tomb of Henry VII., also the bronze effigy of Margaret of Richmond in the chapel of Henry VII. in Westminster Abbey; the latter designed a tomb for Cardinal Wolsey, the sarcophagus of which now holds the body of Admiral Nelson in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

In the seventeenth century the leading native sculptor was Nicholas Stone (1586-1647), to whom the De Vere and Villiers monuments at Westminster are commonly attributed. He was associated in many works with the architect Inigo Jones. Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721), an extraordinarily skilful sculptor, who worked also for Sir Christopher Wren, seems to have been a native of Holland. During the eighteenth century, Flemish and French sculptors received all commissions of importance. Toward the end of the century the classical revival began in England under the inspiration of John Flaxman (1755-1826). His masterly outline illustrations of the poems of Homer, Hesiod, AEschylus, and Dante, and his classic designs and exquisitely delicate reliefs for Wedgwood pottery, did more than his attempts at monumental sculpture to start a new current in English sculpture.

EXTANT MONUMENTS. German Renaissance sculpture may be studied in the museums of Berlin (Royal), Munich (Germanisches), Nuremberg (National), and in the churches and public squares of Nuremberg, Barn-berg, Wurzburg, Rothenburg, Creglingen, Ulm, Blaubeuren, Augsburg, Annaberg, Freiberg, Fulda, Mainz, Calcar, Xanten, Schleswig, and Berlin. In the Netherlands, besides the museums of Brussels (Musee d’Art Monumental) and Amsterdam (Ryks Museum), of special interest are the churches at Bruges, Gheel, Mons, Ypres, Bois-le-Due, and Breda ; in Spain, the Escorial, and the cathedrals and churches of Burgos, Toledo, Seville, Valencia, Barcelona, and Madrid ; in England, Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, Chatsworth and Warwick Castles.