WORKSHOP OF TILMAN RIEMENSCHNEIDER | THE HOLY FAMILY
The sculpture suffered extensive worming in the past, and as a result there are areas of replacement, and the surface has been consolidated throughout. Otherwise the condition is good, with some wear and dirt to the surface consistent with age.
Later replacements include:
The throne on the composition's proper left side; sections of the base and drapery on the proper right side; a section of Joseph's proper right side; and another on his proper left side.
There is evidence of past worming throughout; many of the worm holes have been filled and blended into the surface. Several joints are visible, which represent either separately carved sections, reattachments or restorations, including at: the Christ child's feet, around his neck, his proper right hand (which is restored), around the Virgin's nose, the Virgin's hands, and there is a possible reattachment to the drapery at the front at the bottom, while the Virgin's proper left foot is possibly restored. The Child's proper right hand is lost.
There minor stable splitting to the wood consistent with the material, some of these splits have been filled or reinforced, including at Joseph's head. There is a possibly restored split running through the Virgin's proper right arm and her drapery.
There is some glue or wax residues to the Child's face. There are a few natural knots in the wood, including to the Child's proper left cheek. A dark brown lacquer has been applied to the hollowed back.
The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.
Carl Roettgen (1837-1909), Bonn, by 1905, acquired in Nuremberg;
his posthumous sale, Lempertz, Cologne, 11-13 December 1912, lot 232;
Lempertz, Cologne, 6-8 December 1950, lot 682;
with Galerie Almas, Munich;
Freiherr Schenk von Geyern, after 1952;
B. Böck, Germany, after 1971
P. Clemen, Die Kunstdenkmäler der Stadt Bonn, Düsseldorf, 1905, p. 218, no. 42;
N. Jopek, German Sculpture 1430-1540, cat. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2002, p. 62, fig. 19b;
H. Krohm, 'Die heilige Anna und ihre drei Männer', in Tilman Riemenschneider, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin, 2007, p. 76;
I. Kalden-Rosenfeld and J. Rosenfeld, Tilman Riemenscheider und seine Werkstatt, Königstein, 2015, p. 144, no. 45a
Almost certainly carved by an assistant in the workshop of Tilman Riemenschneider, this beautiful group of the Holy Family represents an important art-historical document in the reconstruction of the great late-Gothic sculptor’s oeuvre. It is one of only two known versions of this motif associated with Riemenschneider’s workshop, while the master’s prototype, which would have formed part of a larger ensemble showing the Holy Kinship, is lost.
Tilman Riemenschneider is known to have created at least one altarpiece with the Holy Kinship in the first decade of the 16th century. Three individual groups, which are generally considered autograph and formerly part of the same such altarpiece – though this latter point has been disputed – have long been known to the scholarship. Today these fragments are dispersed between the Skulpturensammlung SMBPK, Berlin (Saint Anne with her three husbands), the Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart (Mary Cleophas and Alphaeus, inv. no. 1994-193), and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Mary Salome and Zebedee, inv. no. 110-1878). Placed beside each other – as they were during an exhibition in Munich in 2000 – the three groups form a near-complete ensemble illustrating the Holy Kinship which, however, lacks the Holy Family at its centre.
The 'missing link' is provided by the present group, as well as a polychromed variant of the composition housed in the Mainfränkisches Museum, Würzburg, alongside a group of Saint Anne and Joachim, whose figure of Anne closely follows the Saint Anne in the Berlin relief (Muth, op. cit., no. 42). Attributed to Riemenschneider’s workshop or close circle, the Würzburg Holy Family is near-identical in composition to the present group in the figure of the Virgin, but differs in the pose and physiognomy of Joseph, as well as the loss of the Christ Child in Würzburg. Though published as early as 1905 as part of the renowned collection of Carl Roettgen in Bonn, it was not until 2002 that the present Holy Family was formally discussed in the context of Riemenschneider’s Holy Kinship retable. As the only complete version of the subject from Riemenschneider’s workshop, it was described by Norbert Jopek (op. cit.) as 'perhaps the closest reflection of the now lost prototype from the left of the centre group'.
The compositional proximity of the Würzburg Saint Anne fragment to the autograph Kinship groups indicates an origin between circa 1505 and 1510. A similar dating can be proposed for the present group, which finds even closer stylistic parallels in the work of the master and his assistants. A notable comparison for the head of Joseph is found in a stone Saint Peter from the Agony in the Garden in the Church of Saint Burkhart in Würzburg, dated to 1511 (Muth, op. cit., no. 17), whose hairstyle, beard, physiognomy with pronounced cheekbones and furrowed brow correspond almost exactly to the figure in the present work. Compare also the head of the disciple immediately to Christ’s proper right side in the Last Supper at Rothenburg ob der Tauber, dated 1502 (see Lichte, op. cit., fig. 293). The Child proffered by the Virgin displays the slender limbs characteristic of Riemenschneider’s children whilst showing rare sophistication in its frank and direct gaze at the viewer.
H. Muth, Tilman Riemenschneider: Die Werke des Bildschnitzers und Bildhauers, seiner Werkstatt und seines Umkreises im Mainfränkischen Museum Würzburg, Würzburg, 1982, pp. 88-93 and 176-181; C. Lichte (ed.), Tilman Riemenschneider: Werke seiner Blütezeit, exh. cat. Mainfränkisches Museum, Würzburg, 2004, pp. 308-310