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The central group of the Madonna and Child, known as the Virgin of the Rosary, is embellished with radiating giltwood rays representing light and was originally surrounded by a series of polychrome wood rosary medallions incorporating scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin. Each medallion was integrally carved with beaded edges symbolizing a string of rosary beads and the repetitive recitation of prayers made while grasping them. Leinberger's medallions were set into a frame in the shape of a large rosary, as indicated by the carved flower petals on the reverse of each relief. The other remaining reliefs depicting the Annunciation (Niehoff (ed.), op.cit., no. 19) (Fig. 1) and the Nativity (Niehoff (ed.), op.cit., no. 20) are preserved in the Suermondt-Ludwig Museum, Aachen and in the Liebieghaus, Frankfurt, respectively.
The cult of the Rosary was particularly associated with the Dominicans and greatly influenced the art of the Middle Ages. The conspicuous rise of the Rosary at the end of the 15th century was due to the ending of a dispute between Ruprecht of the Palatinate, archbishop of Cologne and the city of Cologne. During this time of turmoil, Jakob Sprenger, Prior to the Dominican monastery in Cologne, promoted the Rosary as succor. When peace was finally restored to the region, he attributed the happy conclusion of hostilities to the intervention of the Virgin. The fervor with which the Rosary was adopted and disseminated was in part due to artists like Dürer and his famous painting of the Feast of the Rosary made in 1506.
Although he became one of the foremost Gothic sculptors in Lower Bavaria, there is little known about Leinberger's birthplace and artistic origins and few documents exist concerning his life in Landshut where he settled around 1510. He was known to have worked for both the court of Ludwig X and the city. His sculpture is widely recognized for its masterful handling of the material and his imaginative presentation of drapery which often appears to have a life of its own. Leinberger's best known work was the high altar in St. Kastulus Monastery in Moosburg on the river Isar, the largest preserved altar in Altbayern. Several of his works are now in the Bayerischesnational Museum, Munich.
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