The History of the Fugger chapel
The Fugger chapel (fig. 4) is the first and most influential example of Italianate Renaissance architecture in Germany, executed to the highest standards and reflecting the Fugger family's power, influence and taste. The Fugger are a prominent family of European bankers, members of the mercantile patrician residents in Augsburg since the early 15th century. Alongside the Welser family, the Fugger took over parts of the operations of the Medici banking dynasty, controlling much of the European economy and accumulating enormous wealth.
On 7th April 1509, Ulrich and Jacob Fugger made an agreement with the Prior of the Carmelite monastery of St Anne in Augsburg to erect a large sepulchral chapel at the west end of the church for themselves and their brother George, who died in 1506. Ulrich Fugger died in 1510, so it was left to Jacob the Rich, the eldest brother, to oversee the completion of the work (fig. 5). The Fugger brothers’ plans were exceptional and ambitious. In 1517, it was recorded that Jacob Fugger had already spent 23,000 Florins for the building works. Dedicated in 1518, the entire decoration contributed to the powerful overall impact of the chapel with its ribbed vaults, patterned polychrome marble pavement, stained glass, organ, and wooden choir stalls. The important altarpiece in the centre of the chapel, surmounted by the group of the Descent from the Cross, with a predella formed of three stone reliefs was sculpted by Hans Daucher. The three tombs of the Fugger brothers, whose epitaphs were designed after compositions by Dürer, are set in the wall of the apse behind the altar.
The chapel had a turbulent history and suffered from change and destruction since the Reformation and Luther's visit to Augsburg. In 1817, on the occasion of the tercentenary celebrations of the Reformation, the chapel was again modernised and disastrously vandalised, when it lost most of its moveable decoration: the altarpiece was removed, the marble balustrade destroyed, and the sculptures dismantled and dispersed. An inventory established by Anton Cavallo, the administrator of the Fuggers, in 1821 mentions ‘six stone angel’s heads’ which, despite the lack of precise correlation, has been linked with our putti. The choir stalls were destroyed in 1832. The 16 pearwood busts which decorated the stalls were removed, and, interestingly, fifteen of them were given in 1848/50 by the renowned art collector S.A. Alexander Minutoli to the museum in Berlin, where only three of them have survived today. It is tempting to suppose that Baron Schickler acquired the two putti for his collection at this time, in a similar manner to Minutoli.
One hundred years later, in 1921, the Fugger family decided to reconstruct the chapel. Philipp Maria Halm, at the time curator of the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich, discovered five of the lost putti not far from Augsburg: three of them in the garden of the Fugger hunting lodge in Lauga, a fourth putto (the one holding a sheet of music) in Wertingen, which was bought back for 800 marks, and a fifth putto in a garden in Friedberg, belonging to a certain Josef Trinkl, who sold the piece after long negotiations for 6 000 marks. We also know from Rasmussen (op.cit., p. 47) that the sixteenth pearwood bust from the stalls was acquired by Albert Figdor in a private collection in Augsburg (today in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston).
A major discovery: The putti from the collections of the Baron Schickler
The discovery of these sculptures in the Schickler-Pourtales collection at the chateau of Martinvast sheds fascinating new light on current scholarship. The 16th century drawing monogrammed S.L. (fig. 1) is the earliest evidence of how six of the putti were originally displayed on the polychrome marble balustrade: our putti could possibly be identified with the first putto from the left, and the second from the right. The reappearance of these two supplementary putti raises the question of the original number. Whereas the drawing shows six putti, Johann Weidner’s engraving of 1680 illustrates only four. Of the six putti today on loan to the Maximilian Museum, one is a modern copy (either of a lost original or a freely imagined model), four are clearly by the same sculptor as the Schickler putti, and one putto is stylistically and iconographically different and may be by another hand. It is possible that the latter putto, who holds a sheet of music, even belonged to a different series, and was possibly sculpted later, for example, when the iron fence was installed in the choir after the Reformation in 1558. When originally displayed on the balustrade, the putti faced one another to form pendants. A study of the two Schickler putti suggests a new sequence of pairings that balances more harmoniously, particularly in terms of their specific style of clothing. The exceptionally well preserved surfaces of our putti show to the full the wonderful carving, alternating rough and polished surfaces, or carefully worked in high relief in the very fine beige limestone. One of the Schickler putti is wearing a helmet decorated with an elaborate floral pattern skilfully carved in high relief. He is certainly intended to form a pair with the so-called Ercoletto (fig. 3), the putto to the far right in the drawing (fig. 3) who has a plainer, but winged helmet. Both putti are wearing elaborate dresses. Whereas Ercoletto is dressed in armour, our putto's tunic is decorated with foliate scrolls and grenade motifs carved in high relief imitating brocade, evidence of the sculptor's particular talent. The second Schickler putto is distinguished by the remarkable carving of his hair with a crown of flowers, and with the feathers of his wings delicately carved. He forms a good pair with the putto pointing at his eye (fig. 2). It is interesting to note that the flowers of his crown recall the floral design on the central balustrade panel. Above all, the very human expressions of the putti, one with his childish look putting his fourth finger into his mouth - a triumph of observation – and the other with his furrowed brow, pursed lips and fixed stare, are their most distinctive and adorable features.
The iconography of the putti A putto is typically depicted as a chubby male child, usually naked and sometimes winged. In the artistic representations of the Italian Renaissance, a putto may also be called amorino personifying Love. The realistic representation of children leaning on a globe may also evoke Vanity or Memento Mori, indicating the ephemeral nature of life, the Conditio humana and Vita brevis; notions which were widespread at the time (Eser, op. cit., p. 211). Putti appear often as architectural sculptures or function as funeral genies, like those on the monumental reliefs in the Fugger Chapel, which flank the epitaphs inscribed with the virtues of the deceased brothers: liberalitas (generosity), integritas (integrity), magnitudo animi (high spirits), aurea mediocritas (the golden mean), aequanimitas (equanimity). These values are inspired by the Wisdom of Sirach also known as the Book of Ecclesiasticus, a work of ethical teachings, from approximately 200 BC, describes in chapter 44 Invitatio ad viros illustres laudandos (Bushart, op.cit., p.216). Other historians interpret the putti as personifications of the Five Senses.
The representation of playful putti, some exposing themselves as in the case of the Ercoletto and the Schickler putto with the floral crown, may seem inappropriate iconography for a funerary chapel. An important precedent, however, can be identified in Dürer’s famous Paumgartner altarpiece, today in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich. The central panel depicts The Adoration with the Christ Child lying in the centre of the composition. Directly in front of the Child is an angel facing away from the viewer and exposing his behind. It could be supposed, therefore, that Dürer, who it is claimed had a role in the design of the Fugger chapel, would have approved of the Fugger Chapel putti.
The sculptor Hans Daucher (1486-1538)
Hans Daucher belongs to a renowned dynasty of Renaissance sculptors in Southern Germany from the region of Ulm. Trained by his father and from 1500 onwards by his uncle Gregor Erhart, Hans became a medallist and master sculptor in 1518. In 1524, he inherited his father’s workshop in Augsburg. He soon specialized in small stone reliefs and executed medals of famous contemporaries, such as Maximilian I of Bavaria. Hans Daucher increased his reputation with small reliefs, finely sculpted in the Solnhofen stone, after engravings by Dürer, notably his portrait of Charles V, circa 1522 (Innsbruck, inv. no P 168), or his relief of the Holy Family in Vienna (inv. n° D216). Amongst his most important works is the altarpiece of Annaberg, executed in 1519-21 with his father (Eser, op. cit., p. 200, no 26).
The discovery of the Schickler putti calls for a timely reassessment of the importance of the Fugger chapel in Augsburg. Their extremely well preserved condition allows us to appreciate how spectacular the skilfull and elaborate carving of the other remaining putti would have been had they not suffered from nearly a century neglected outdoors, and to re-asses their original quality and arrangement on the balustrade. The style, size and iconography of our putti make them clearly part of the original group of children from the Fugger chapel, and are a prestigious testimony to the quality of the Schickler-Pourtales collection. They present the collector with the rarest of opportunities to acquire fully provenanced masterpieces of German Renaissance sculpture.
We are most grateful to the art historian Andrea Huber (Mühltal/Germany), as well as to Franz Karg, archivist of the Fürstlich und Gräflich Fuggersches Familien- und Stiftungsarchiv in Dillingen as well as to the Fürstliche and Gräfliche Fugger Stiftung Augsbourg for their precious investigations and assistance in researching these sculptures.
P. M. Halm, Adolf Daucher und die Fuggerkapelle bei St. Anna in Augsburg, Studien zur Fugger-Geschichte, t. VI, Munich/Leipzig, 1921;
F. Bange, 'Peter Flötners Augsburger Aufenthalt', in: Jahrbuch der Preußischen Kunstsammlungen 44 (1923), pp. 107-117.
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