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A GERMAN LATE GOTHIC PARCEL-GILT STATUETTE OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER ON RELIQUARY BASE
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A GERMAN LATE GOTHIC PARCEL-GILT STATUETTE OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER ON RELIQUARY BASE

DATED 1493, PROBABLY AUGSBURG

Details
A GERMAN LATE GOTHIC PARCEL-GILT STATUETTE OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER ON RELIQUARY BASE
Dated 1493, probably Augsburg
The Saint shown wading through the turbulent river holding in his left hand a rough staff, his right arm resting on his hip, and wearing a gilt tunic and billowing cloak with parcel-gilt lining, supporting on his right shoulder the Christ Child who holds, with His left Hand, a knot of the Saint's hair, while His right Hand is raised in blessing, the hexagonal reliquary base engraved around the shoulder with Latin inscription with applied foliage at intervals and resting on six plinth feet, each surmounted by architectural column, with foliage and scroll braces and pendant gothic foliage between, the plain band above engraved with name and initials, the reliquary contained within three glazed panels applied with tied scrolling foliage wreaths and the seated figure of the Christ Child, with the figure of an abbot above a coat-of-arms, and the figure of Saint George in armour standing beneath canopies between (now without a third figure - that of Saint Lawrence, two coats of arms and one of the Christ Child figures from a glazed panel as well as other losses).
18½ in. (47 cm.) high
Gross weight 91 oz. (2,838 gr.)
The one remaining coat-of-arms on the base is that of the Monastery of Kaiserheim, surmounted by a standing figure which has been identified as Abbot George Kastner (Fritz, op. cit., fig. 731).

Fortunately, when the figure of Saint Christopher was exhibited in the 1901 Burlington Fine Arts Club, the one lost figure from the base was identified as Saint Lawrence and the two coats-of-arms now missing were then present and were blazoned thus:

Argent, a bend cotised gules between two mullets sable, which is almost certainly a misreading of the arms of Kastner, for the Abbot. His correct arms are argent, a bow between two mullets sable or,

An eagle double headed, displayed sable, for the Holy Roman Empire.

The Latin inscription around the top of the reliquary base reads:

CHRISTOFERE. SANCTE. V'TVTES. SVT. T'.TANTE G.A.K.D.W. (=Georg Abbas Kaiserheimensis Dei Vavassor?) QVI. TE. MANE. VIDET. TEMP'OE. NOCTNO. R'DET. 1.4.9.3.
A.M.K. (= Adam Mendlin Kustos).


The initials G.A.K.D.W. have been variously interpreted. One suggestion was as above (1965 Augsburg Exhibition Catalogue, op. cit.). An earlier interpretation was that the initials were abbreviations for Georg Abt. Kaiserheim Donau Worth and Abbatiae Monasterii Kaisariensis (Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1906, op. cit.) The town of Dönauworth is a few kilometres from the Monastery.

On a lower band are engraved the initials F.H.Z.S. (= Friedrich Herzog zu Sachsen) and name CHRISTOF, HERZOG (= Christoph, Duke of Bavaria-Munich).

A loose translation reads:

Saint Christopher your virtues are so strong, George Abbot of Kaiserheim vassal of God [?], that those who see you in the morning can smile at night. 1493
Adam Mendlin custodian

Provenance
A gift to the Monastery of Kaiserheim in 1497, ordered by the Custodian of the Abbey Treasury, Brother Adam Medelin on behalf of Abbot George Kastner and paid for in part by Duke Frederick of Saxony.
Presumably sold following the secularisation of the Monastery of Kaiserheim in 1802
Prince Petr Soltykoff: his sale [Catalogue des Objects d'art et de haute curiosité composant la célèbre collection du Prince Soltykoff], Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 8 April-1 May 1861, lot 173, as: Autre Reliquaire de grand travail et de même forme, par le même artiste, également en argent partie doré. Il représante saint Christoph portant le Christ enfant et s'appuyant sur un arbe ébranché. Inscription et date de 1593 [sic].
Haut. 45 cent.
Sir Julius Wernher, 1st Bt. (1850-1912), by 1901, Bath House, London, by whom bequeathed, with a life interest to his widow, Alice, Lady Wernher, subsequently Lady Ludlow (1862-1945), to their son
Sir Harold Wernher, 3rd Bt., G.C.V.O. (1893-1973), Bath House, London, and from 1948, Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire, and by descent.
Literature
Catalogue of the exhibition, A Collection of Silversmiths' Work of European Origin, Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1901, pp. 160-1, case 0, no. 5, pl. IX.
J. Knebel, Die Chronik des Klosters Kaisheim verfasst vom Cistercienser Johann Knebel im Jahre 1531, Herausgegeben Von Franz Hüttner, Tubingen, 1902, p.368.
Catalogue of the Exhibition, Early German Art, Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1906, p. 117, case A, no. 12, pl. XLV.
1913 Bath House Inventory, p. 137, no. 679 (with Saint Sebastian), in the safe.
1914 Wernher Inventory, p. 93, no. 459 (with Saint Sebastian).
Catalogue of the exhibition, German Art 1400-1800: from Collections in Great Britain, Manchester, 1961.
Catalogue of the exhibition, Hans Holbein der Ältere und die Kunst die Spätgotik, Augsburg, 1965, p. 203, no. 275, pl. 272.
J.M. Fritz, Goldschmiedekunst der Gotik in Mitteleuropa, Munich, 1982, pp. 92 and 286, where a detail of the statuette on the base above the coat-of-arms is illustrated and identified as a portrait of Abbot George Kastner.
D. Lüdke, Die Statuetten der gotischen Goldschmiede, Munich, 1983, pp. 356-357, figs. 340 and 341.
Exhibited
London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, Exhibition of a Collection of Silversmiths' work of European Origin, 1901, lent by Mr. Julius Wernher, London.
London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, Exhibition of Early German Art, 1906.
Augsburg, Hans Holbein der Ältere und die Kunst der Spätgotik, 1965.
Manchester, City Art Gallery, German Art 1400-1800: from Collections in Great Britain, 1961.
Special Notice

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Lot Essay

Although no drawing by Hans Holbein the Elder for this figure has been identified, it seems likely that he and the same silversmith's workshop, possibly that of Jörg Seld, were responsible for this reliquary as well as that of Saint Sebastian. It should be pointed out however, that such a figure would well have taken months, if not years, to produce, and work on the Saint Christopher might well pre-date Holbein's physical arrival in Augsburg. In any event, although there are obvious differences, the feet and foliate scroll braces on the reliquary bases of both Saint Christopher and Saint Sebastian are very similar, and the two figures not only complement each other but are each imbued with the same intense realism. The distinctive detail of the veins portrayed on both figures, which is not present in the Holbein drawing for Saint Sebastian, also suggests that both figures were conceived as a pair in the same workshop. In addition the flowing river through which Saint Christopher wades seems to echo the rockwork base in the drawing for Saint Sebastian.

It has been further suggested that the reliquary figures were originally designed to flank a 54 cm. (21¼ in.) high parcel-gilt statuette of the Virgin made in the workshop of Heinrich Hufnagel in 1482 and ordered by Abbot Kastner's immediate predecessor, Johannes Vischeß, whose arms it bears (Lüdke, loc. cit.). Alternatively they may have been designed for placement on either side of the very large monstrance weighing 30 marks ordered by Abbot Kastner and mentioned in the 1531 Chronicle. The monstrance certainly must have been imposing as, if we assume that this was the Cologne mark used in Bavaria, it weighed approximately 7 kg. or 225 troy ounces (F. Stein, 'Weights on Continental silver', The Silver Society Journal, no. 9, Autumn 1997).

The image of the Saint bearing the Christ Child was a popular one as a subject for reliquaries during the fifteenth century. For example, there is a fine parcel-gilt figure of the Saint on elongated octagonal base, which is now lacking its relic and rock-crystal panels. This dates from circa 1400 and was made in Toulouse for the nearby church of Castelnaudary. It was eventually acquired by the collector, J. Pierpont Morgan, and is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (M. E. Frazer, 'Medieval Church Treasures', The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Winter 1985/1986, XKIII, no. 3, pp. 50-51, fig. 57 and illustrated on the cover). Here the serene and remote figure of the Christ Child stands on the Saint's shoulder, holding in His left Hand the orb and cross while His right is raised in blessing. A charming, as well as symbolic touch, is the inclusion of engraved fish in the water at the Saint's feet.

A second superb figure of Saint Christopher, now on permanent loan to the Basel Minster Treasury, was made in Basel, circa 1445 (U. Barth and B. M. Babey, Erlesenes aus dem Basler Münsterschatz, Basel, 1990, p. 56, no. 56, illustrated on the cover). Here the figures are much closer to the present lot, but the Christ Child again holds the orb and cross and sits serenely above the Saint who glances up, suddenly aware of the weight on his shoulder. As with the French figure, Saint Christopher is standing, rather than wading, through the water. Neither of the earlier figures include the dramatic billowing cloak and intense intimacy between the Christ Child and Saint of the Kaiserheim Saint Christopher.

The closest source for the figure of Saint Christopher so far identified is a roundel of the Saint engraved by Master HS. This artist is known to have copied contemporary masters such as Martin Schongauer and, particularly, Lucas Cranach the Elder (Bartsch, VI, p. 387, no. 2).

The Master HS appears to have been working in Nuremberg around 1500, and it is quite possible that his engraving of Saint Christopher is after a now lost drawing by Hans Holbein the Elder, which was the study for this reliquary figure. There are differences between engraving and figure such as the inclusion in the engraving of the Christ Child's halo and the Saint's free arm raised to protect the Christ Child. However the Saint's stance, his simple staff and billowing cloak as well as the unusual detail of the Christ Child holding his hair, are all common to both. The slight changes between flat design and three dimensional silver figure, also present in the Saint Sebastian, are to be expected as the goldsmith works out the practical details of production. The end result is a work of art of quite exceptional beauty that has been rightly described as one of the most important masterpieces of the late Gothic period (Lüdke, loc. cit.).

(We would like to thank Professor E. L. Richter and Philippe Palasi for drawing our attention to some of the literature cited above).

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