Page images
[merged small][graphic]




I. O. Wydyz if the inscription with the date 1505 is to be relied upon. But of this Wydyz we are without any further information, nor can there be any certainty that the signature refers to a sculptor. If, however, we take it to be that of the Master of the Freiburg altarpiece, we may conjecturally also connect him with a Martyrdom of St. Sebastian in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, Berlin. Some see in this, too, a strong resemblance to the Basel Adam. But it is entirely unsafe to rely upon such weak analogies, for which other circumstances might easily account, and though the figure of the martyr may fairly be connected with the style of the sculptor of the altarpiece, it would not suffice to establish an affinity with the Basel piece. The Adoration of the Magi is surmounted by figures of Our Lord, the Virgin and St. John, and if there should be grounds for ascribing this group and the one below to the same sculptor, then we should be fairly on the way towards giving to him also the Adam and Eve. In the figure of Our Lord blessing and in the crucifix we have, as typical of the sculptor, the three folds of flesh below the ribs (although the body is nearly upright), the contracted waist, the peculiar curve of the hips and the anatomy of the arms. There are points in the group of the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian which may be compared with a fine boxwood figure, which it will be convenient to take here, but with no idea of suggesting that they are by the same sculptor. It is the figure at one time in the Bonnafife collection, supposed to be a portrait-statuette of Wenczel Jamnitzer the great Niirnberg goldsmith: possibly, even, a selfportrait. It is plainly a masterly piece, representing an elderly long-bearded man, draped in a flowing mantle, more suggestive of the bronzist's or goldsmith's art than of the qualities of wood sculpture for its own sake. The Basel St. Sebastian has a certain resemblance to it in the pose of the left leg, in the general movement, and in the anatomy of the foot. There is, of course, evidence of considerable acquaintance with Italian art, but it is far behind the Jamnitzer figure in originality, in nobility of expression, and in simple elegance of the drapery. The subject of boxwood and pearwood figures generally can hardly be left without a passing reference to the very powerful group, in pearwood, in the Waddesdon bequest, representing Antaeus supporting the wounded Hercules. It stands almost a foot in height, and is said to be Flemish of the late sixteenth century. We have here another instance of the uncertainties which still surround us. Whether the origin be of Flanders, of Nurnberg, or even of Augsburg, might surely be conjectured, but in each case no artist's name suggests itself, or country, except Italy, from which we may be sure it did not proceed.



IN a comprehensive work of this kind, in which an endeavour is made to give a general idea of a very extensive subject, it becomes advisable from time to time to clear the way. Every division with which we have to deal is of importance, greater or less as the case may be, and in reality demands a monograph. The subject of medallions in wood is also intimately connected with that of the sister arts of cast and struck medals, and here we come into especial contact with Italy and her great bronze sculptors and goldsmiths, and with the plaquettes and panels in lithographic stone which form such a feature of German art of the sixteenth century. These, again, cannot be dissociated from the great names of Diirer, Wohlgemut, and so many other wood engravers and ornamentists. While, therefore, diversions from the principal subject are inevitable, the limits of this publication make it imperative that they should be allusive only. Nor will it be possible to do more than make a choice of three or four from among the most distinguished of the German boxwood medallion sculptors and of their work, and this as examples of wood sculpture only, without reference to those in metal. Medals are coinlike pieces cast or struck in metal, or carved in wood, either as finished memorials, and works of art in themselves, or for pattern pieces to be reproduced by casting in metal. Those with which

« PreviousContinue »