Uploaded by tehwalker


TILMAN RIEMENSCHNEIDER (1460-1531) is a great master of the Northern Renaissance.
His works are among the first and finest to portray real people, and their feelings. He is an
exact contemporary of Albert Durer. I first came across him when I visited the
Mainfränkisches Museum in the Fortress Marienberg in Würzburg which has 81 of his pieces.
Tilman Riemenschneider was born around the year 1460 and learned the trade of sculpting
and woodcarving, possibly in Strasbourg or Ulm. In 1483, he settled in Würzburg and joined
the appropriate Guild as a painter's assistant but soon afterwards he married the widow of a
master goldsmith. This marriage brought him property, and meant that he could end his
apprenticeship, become a citizen of Würzburg, which made it possible to attain the status of
master craftsman, and open a workshop in the home of his wife.
He became a pillar of the community holding several civic posts, including mayor in 152021, by which time he had married for the fourth time. During the peasant revolt in 1525,
Riemenschneider allied himself with the lower classes against the Prince-Bishop. As a result,
he was arrested, imprisoned and tortured. He left prison a few months later, and died in 1531.
Riemenschneider was a successful entrepreneur. He produced custom-made altarpieces,
statues, memorials, and other religious items in response to a high local demand. In his later
years, he employed some 40 apprentices. He never travelled and spent his whole life in
Bavaria. Although he did carve in stone, his best known work is in wood, limewood in
Early works are the Annunciation and the four evangelists.
ALTHOUGH many of his works were destroyed by Protestants during the later religious
wars, much is still preserved in the cities, towns, and villages around Würzburg.
Riemenschneider’s success in his day can be gauged by the many prestigious church and
civic commissions that he completed, including the marble tomb for the Holy Roman
Emperor Henry II and Cunigunde, his wife (1513), in the cathedral at Bamberg near by.
Riemenschneider’s most celebrated work is the Holy Blood altarpiece in Jakobskirche, in the
small, picturesque city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
The position of the altarpiece demonstrates Riemenschneider’s artistry in manipulating the
daylight from the rear windows. The light falls particularly on the figure of Judas who
becomes the central figure rather than Christ, who stands higher than the rest, but more
isolated, to the rear of the group.
In another masterpiece, the Virgin and Child in a Rosary, the rosary is surrounded by
roundels of devotional scenes that catch the light in turn as the sun moves round the work
during the day, as signals for changes of prayer.
A third example is at Creglinden
He also included portraits of himself ion his carving, for instance at Creglinden and at
THE lack of appreciation today, outside Germany, of Riemenschneider’s work can be
attributed to several factors. He did not travel as other artists did, and carvings and statues
were less easily transported than paintings or tapestries. But his great ability — so admired in
his own time — to create miracles in the eyes of pilgrims by the manipulation of daylight is
no longer understood or appreciated.