Hercules and Iolaus with the Hydra
|Medium, technique||painted lime-wood|
115 x 43 x 25 cm
|On view||Museum of Fine Arts, Second Floor, European Sculpture 1350-1800, Gallery 1|
Tilman Riemenschneider ran the largest sculpture workshop of his time, where with the help of over forty apprentices he fulfilled countless commissions. Not only were his works admired, but in time he was also elected a member of the town council of Würzburg. His unparalleled rise to fame ended in 1524-25 with the German Peasants’ War. Würzburg council sided with the peasants, so when the uprising was put down Riemenschneider too was incarcerated, and although he was soon set free in the years that followed he no longer received important commissions.
Riemenschneider belonged to the last generation of German Late Gothic, and he raised woodcarving to a masterly level, introducing quite a few innovations too. Monochrome unpainted wooden carved altars were disseminated largely through his works. In addition, his workshop was a model of organization. Because he worked simultaneously on several commissions, the workshop produced one kind of sculpture for up to decades, almost unchanged in form. This Madonna is one of the popular types carved often, of which eight other versions are extant. They follow the pattern so closely that in addition to drawn designs it is conceivable that carved models were also used. Other evidence for this is that several small Riemenschneider wooden sculptures of barely half a metre high are extant, which may have had just such a role in the shop.
Balogh, Jolán, Katalog der ausländischen Bildwerke des Museums der bildenden Künste in Budapest, IV – XVIII. Jahrhundert: 1. Textband Bd. 1, Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1975, p. 224-225., no. 327.
This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.