Virgin and Child Standing upon the Moon
By Lucia Lopez
Virgin and Child by Tilman Riemenschneider
This Virgin and Child can be viewed at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, though its place of origin is Germany. Tilman Riemenschneider made this statue during the 1490s. The Virgin and Child are standing upon a crescent moon in a similar manner to the statue at LACMA, and both figures are wearing crowns. Both statues are also made from limewood. The Virgin touches with one hand her son’s feet. The Virgin looks sorrowful though her son seems as if he is about to crack a smile. The major differences are that the statue at LACMA has a bird on the Christ child, who is holding onto the clothing of his mother. Unlike the statue LACMA, the child is touching his foot and standing up. The statue of LACMA is more enjoyable to look at since the figure has more details. For example, the hair is long and curly compared to the sculpture in Boston. Additionally, both statues have a naked Christ with curly hair. Riemenschneider represented the Virgin and child in a comparatively simpler manner. Unlike the statute of LACMA, Riemenschneider’s Virgin looks more elegant and serious, which may represent the higher authority she holds as the mother of God.
Tilman Riemenschneider (1460-1531)
Tilman Riemenschneider was a famous German sculptor and represented the last generation of Gothic sculptors in southern Germany. Born in 1460 in Heligenstadt, Germany, Tilman’s father was the master of the mint, which meant he translated designs into three-dimensional forms onto coins. Riemenschneider trained first as a stone sculptor in Erfurt and specialized in alabaster. He then traveled as a journeyman to the southwest of Germany. He worked mostly with alabaster, sandstone, and lindenwood. Riemenschneider produced many works but most have been destroyed. One of his early works in 1490 was the wooden altarpiece of the parish church of Munnerstadt. In 1492, the altarpiece was completed and included a carving of Saint Mary Magdalene with six angels. The town council of Wurzburg ordered stone figures of Adam and Eve in 1491 and installed them in 1492. The stones figures were the earliest known nude sculptures in Germany, though nudity was largely considered unacceptable during that time. In August 1499, he produced a monumental stone tomb of Emperor Henry II and of his wife Kunigunde. The tomb depicted many different scenes from the life of the couple. Riemenschneider’s most important sculpture was the Holy Blood altarpiece that was commissioned by the town council. The main scene showed the Last Supper and was very detailed. Riemenschneider became a member of the Wurzburg town council in 1504, and had the responsibility for overseeing public buildings in the city. He tended to emphasize emotionless stillness by focusing on his figures’ faces and hands, believing in the power of facial expression. Riemenschneider’s workshop was the most important in the Wurzburg region. He employed over 40 assistants and divided work into three main groups of wood-carvers, sculptors of stone, and painters. Between 1485 and 1515, five documented works were in wood and four were in stone. Riemenschneider died on July 7, 1531 and was buried in the cathedral cemetery.