Riemenschneider and Late Medieval Alabaster

GBP £21.95



ISBN: 978-1-913875-43-5

180 Pages

216 x 216 mm (8 ½ x 8 ½ in)

100 colour illustrations

In association with the Cleveland Museum of Art

April 2023


At the centre of this publication is Tilman Riemenschneider’s masterpiece Saint Jerome and the Lion, one of the artist’s most important sculptures.

Riemenschneider’s Saint Jerome is not only one of the artist’s more important early sculptures, it is also his only work in alabaster in a collection in the US.

Sixth volume in the Cleveland Masterworks Series

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Said to have come from the Benedictine abbey church of Saint Peter in Erfurt, Germany, this sculpture by Tilman Riemenschneider (c.1460–1531), dated to c. 1495, depicts the church father Saint Jerome as he removes a thorn from the paw of a lion, a legendary account of the saint’s kindness. Following the common iconography of the scene, Jerome is dressed in the traditional robes of a Roman cardinal, with the cowl draped over his tonsured head and the broad-brimmed hat on his right leg. Traces of polychromy and gilding suggest that it was once brightly coloured. Drill holes in the hat further indicate that cords and tassels of fabric, typical of a cardinal’s hat, would once have decorated the sculpture. Whether the statue was originally commissioned for an altar in a private chapel or smaller space in the monastery remains unknown.

Alabaster was prized for its lustre and capacity for fine details from the 14th to the 16th century. The gleaming stone was used for altarpieces and small sculptures, as well as the tombs of wealthy princes. The book unites works from the medieval collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art and selected masterworks from North American museums and the Louvre in Paris, which allows insight into the characteristics of alabaster sculptures in this period. It is striking that these works are of such a particularly exquisite quality that this material was used especially for high-ranking commissions, such as the tomb of Duke Philip the Bold of Burgundy in Champmol near Dijon. The book is accompanied by several essays that examine the subject of alabaster sculpture from different perspectives.

Author biographies

Gerhard Lutz is the Robert P. Bergman Curator of Medieval Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Elina Gertsman is Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan Professor in Catholic Studies II, professor of Art History and director of Graduate Studies, Case Western Reserve University.

Sophie Jugie is directrice du département des Sculptures, Musée du Louvre.

Wolfram Kloppmann is isotope geochemist BRGM–Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières, Orléans.

Lise Leroux is a conservation scientist, Laboratoire de recherche des monuments historiques Ministère de la culture, Champs-sur-Marne.

Pierre-Yves Le Pogam is conservateur général au département des Sculptures, Musée du Louvre.

Stefan Roller is head of the Medieval Department, Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt am Main.

Julia Perratore is an assistant curator at Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Table of Contents

    • Director’s Foreword
    • Acknowledgements
    • On the Use of Alabaster in Fifteenth-Century Sculpture by Gerhard Lutz
    • Alabaster as a Material by Wolfram Kloppmann, Sophie Jugie, Pierre-Yves Le Pogam, and Lise Leroux
    • Alabaster Bodies: Medium and Meaning by Elina Gertsman
    • The Master of the Rimini Altarpiece and Contemporaneous Alabaster Sculpture in the Burgundian Netherlands by Stefan Roller
    • Tilman Riemenschneider’s Early Work and Alabaster Sculpture by Gerhard Lutz
      1a, b Saint Jerome and the Virgin of the Annunciation Gerhard Lutz
      Archangel Gabriel Gerhard Lutz
      Mourners from the Tomb of Philip the Bold Samantha Truman and Angelica Verduci
      Mourner from the Tomb of John the Fearless and Margaret of Bavaria Reed O’Mara
      5a, b Two Standing Apostles Gerhard Lutz
      Saint Philip Gerhard Lutz
      7 Christ Child Gerhard Lutz
      8 Saint John the Evangelist Gerhard Lutz
      9 Pietà Alison Luchs
      10 Enthroned Virgin and Child Alexandra Kaczenski
      11 Saint James the Greater Julia Perratore
    • Bibliography
    • Index