The sculptural application of this limewood St. John de Calvaire is characteristic of Bavarian artistic production at the end of the 15th century. He has almond-shaped eyes, small pursed lips, an aquiline nose, curly hair and a detailed clothing, draped, made of soft and marked folds. On the other hand, his head turned to the right suggests that he was part of a larger composition made for an altarpiece that has now disappeared. This hypothesis is reinforced by the fact that traditionally, Christ on his cross is flanked on either side by the Virgin and Saint John.

Indeed, in the representations of the crucifixion, the “disciple whom Jesus loved”, overwhelmed with great pain, laments the death of Christ, next to the Virgin Mary, at the foot of the cross on Mount Golgotha. Typical of the iconography of St. John au Calvaire, with bare feet, as well as the hand drying the tears of his deep sorrow, are remarkable in our sculpture. A strong emotion as well as a great piety emanates from this sculpture. It is notably through his averted gaze that his profound affliction is displayed.

This work is to be compared with the sculptures of the German artist Tilman Riemenschneider (active in Würzburg from 1483 to 1531). He was the head of an important workshop whose production spread throughout southern Germany, creating a very specific style that we find in this sculpture. This hypothesis is fully justified by the knowledge of other works attributed to Riemenschneider, whose features and workmanship are very similar to those of our work. We can take as a decisive example a sculpture, also of a Saint John, sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2013, now in a private collection ( Translated with (free version)Fig. 1)

Fig. 1: Saint John, lime wood, Southern Germany, Workshop of Tilman Riemenschneider, ca. 1490, H. 115 cm. Sotheby’s NY Sale Lot 342, Jan. Feb, 2013. private collection

Fig. 2 : The Deploration of Christ, limewood, Germany, Tilman Riemenschneider, c. 1515, Lime wood, H. 1,02, Ludwig Roselius Museum in Bremen, Germany

Saint John of Calvary – Bavaria – Early 16th century


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