Lot 103
  • 103

Austrian, Tyrol, 1547

30,000 - 40,000 GBP
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  • Memorial shield for Michel Hess Zum Freijen Thurn
  • polychromed limewood
  • Austrian, Tyrol, 1547
inscribed: Anno dominj 1547 Am Ersten tag Marcij Starb der Edl und Vesst Michel hesß Zum freijen Thurn, dem Gott Genedig seij (Anno domini 1547 on the first day of March the noble and steadfast Michel Hess Zum Freijen Thurn died, may God be merciful to him)


Kloster Mühlbach, Puster Valley;
Dr. Albert Figdor, Vienna, until 1930;
his sale, Paul Cassirer Berlin, 29-30 September 1930, lot 560
Oskar Bondy, Vienna;
seized and designated for the Führermuseum, Linz, 4 July 1938, no. 1499;
stored in the mines at Altaussee, Austria, where discovered by the Allies in 1946;
restituted to the heirs of Oskar Bondy, before August 1948;
Rudolf Kremayr, Vienna, until 1989;
and thence by descent


O. von Falke (ed.), Die Sammlung Dr. Albert Figdor Wien, Vienna and Berlin, 1930, vol. v, no. 560, pl. cxcviii;
Bundesdenkmalambt Österreich, “Liste der Gegenstände der Sammlung Bondy, die bisher aufgefunden wurden”, Akten (1948): III, f. 43, no. 1499;
Akten (1948): III, f. 43, no. 1499;
S. Lilie, Was einmal war. Handbuch der enteigneten Kunstsammlungen Wiens, Vienna, 2003, p. 230


Overall the condition of the wood is good with minor dirt and wear to the surface consistent with age. The shield is composed in sections, and stable original joints are visible, notably at each segment of the frame. The whole has been constructed on a larger octagonal board composed of sections of wood. There is minor stable splitting to the wood, consistent with age, notably at the board at the back. There are particularly notable splits through the red borders and inscription at the lower left side, and through the inscription and borders at the top to the right of the man. The lower left section of the frame has come away slightly, leading to a more open joint at the lower right side of the section. There is minor craquelure to the paint, consistent with age. It is possible that the red paint may have been refreshed. There are some losses to the polychromy, notably at the joints of the frame. There are also some areas of loss to the coat of arms itself, particularly to the head and to the body and hat of the man. There are a few old inserts in the wood, notably throughout the garlanded frieze. There are some slight losses to the foliate swags emerging from behind the helmet. There are splits to the foliate swag to the right of the coat of arms, which is a little loose. There are three metal hooks at the back for mounting, and there are various old metal screws and pins in the back.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

This magnificent escutcheon falls into a category of memorials known as Totenschilde (memorial shields). These elaborate funerary monuments flourished in German speaking lands particularly in the 15th and 16th centuries, though their origins stretch back to the 12th century, when shields or helmets of fallen knights would be suspended on church walls to memorialise the dead. Gradually Totenschilde were embellished, with fictive wood shields bearing a knight's coat of arms replacing functioning arms. These shields would be centered on large circular or lozenge shaped boards, surmounted with a helmet or other device, and framed by a dedicatory inscription. Totenschilde were the preserve of patrician elites, and were considered a privilege, with their dedicatory inscriptions often listing their subject's status, profession or achievements. As tangible reminders of lineage and tradition, they were a source of considerable familial and civic pride, and, as such, were largely protected from iconoclasm during the Reformation.

Many of the best examples are preserved in the Ulm Münster, whilst copious numbers of them can be found in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, including a charming example dedicated to Jerome Kress (d. 1477) (inv. no. KG987), which, like the present Totenschild includes a man emanating from the helmet. He holds a sword in his mouth (clenched between his teeth, which recall boars teeth), mimicking the sword on the coat of arms, much like the man's hat in the present example, which replicates the hat appearing on the shield. The present Totenschild is typical of 16th-century examples in being more elaborate, with two borders composed of vegetal forms, and a more idiosyncratic hexagonal shape. With its characterful bust of a bearded man surmounting the helmet, and well preserved polychromy, it is a particularly fine example of its type.

C. Lichte and H. Meurer, Die mittelalterlichen Skulpturen, vol ii, Stein- und Holzskulpturen 1400-1530 Ulm und südliches Schwaben, cat. Landesmuseum Württemberg, 2007, pp. 101-103, no. 54