Nikolaus Klammer (also spelt Klamer or Clamer), (Vienna, 1769- Graz, 1830), was the son of a porcelain modeller who worked for the K.K. porcelain factory in Vienna. When Klammer was 12, the Brothers Hess – famous for their ivory micro-carvings – recognised Klammer’s extraordinary talent, and took him on as their apprentice. For some 20 years, Klammer worked on creating miniscule ivory pictures. It has been said that 'Klammer elevated his artistry to a marvelous virtuosity. The detail is fine and delicate, so much so that one often needs a loupe in order fully to appreciate the piece.' (J. Wastler, Steirisches Kuenstlerlexikon
, 1883, S. 72).
Following the death of Paul Johann Hess, Klammer came under the wing of the retired royal Commander Anton Striseck Edler von Riesenthal, who enabled him to go on several educational tours, mainly to London where he worked with the royal sculptors Stephany & Dresch. There he began to use sheets of dark-blue glass (Bristol glass) for the background rather than blue or black pigments.
Klammer's most celebrated theme was an ivory flower bouquet carved emerging from a flat relief vase. One example was acquired by a Frenchman who showed it in France for a small fee and another was acquired by Johann von Leichtenstein during the Congress of Vienna.
Despite critical success and the high price of his carvings, Klammer experienced financial difficulties which led him to switch from micro-scenes to miniature sculptures, working on a series of small animals, which were then turned into cravat pins. In 1815, Klammer's wife and six children all died. Unsurprisingly, the loss of his entire family drove Klammer into a deep depression and he could no longer work as a carver. His last years were spent as a teacher.
The subject of a sacrifice to Priapus is taken from an intaglio originally engraved by Giovanni Pichler in oriental sardonyx for the English collector William Constable between 1772 and 1776. Pichler's engraving was in turn said to derive from a bas-relief modelled by the French sculptor, Clodion (1738-1814), now lost.