By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Peter Vischer
Author: Headlam, Cecil
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Peter Vischer" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

available by Internet Archive (https://archive.org)

      Images of the original pages are available through
      Internet Archive. See

Transcriber’s note:

      Text that was in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

      The reader will encounter "[TN1]" once. [TN1] identifies an
      error in the original book: “ETSAXA” should have been “ET SAXA”.

      The reader will encounter [TN2] three times. [TN2] identifies
      a place where a character could not be reproduced and was
      replaced by an apostrophe (example: "PETR’[TN2]).




                   Handbooks of the Great Craftsmen.


    Illustrated Monographs, Biographical and Critical, on the Great
           Craftsmen and Workers of Ancient and Modern Times.

                  Edited by G. C. WILLIAMSON, Litt.D.

       Imperial 16mo, with numerous Illustrations, 5s. net each.

                      First Volumes of the Series

    CUST, M.A.



                           Others to follow.


                      LONDON: GEORGE BELL AND SONS
                      NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN CO.







Formerly Demy of Magdalen College, Oxford; Author of
“The Story of Nuremberg,” etc.

[Illustration: Publisher’s Logo]

George Bell and Sons

Chiswick Press: Charles Whittingham and Co.
Tooks Court, Chancery Lane, London.



THE Germans have by nature the gift of working in metal, and, among
them, in the realms of bronze, Peter Vischer stands easily first. His
position as a craftsman may, in fact, be compared with that held by his
contemporary and fellow citizen, Albert Dürer, as an artist. The history
of his works and of those of his house, have a peculiar interest to the
student of art, inasmuch as they illustrate the gradual but easily
traceable passage of the German craftsmen from the style of late Gothic
to that of complete neo-paganism, and, from the school of the Northern
painters and sculptors to that of the great Italian masters

I speak of the works of Peter Vischer “and his house,” because, in
tracing this development, we have to take into consideration not only
his works but also those of his father Hermann and of his sons, Hermann
and Peter and Hans. The pendulum of criticism has indeed swung more than
once since the Emperor Maximilian used to visit Peter Vischer’s foundry
in Nuremberg, and the questions as to what are actually the works of the
Master and what position is to be assigned to him in the world of art,
have been answered in more ways than one. For many years, owing partly
to the ignorance of most people, and partly no doubt to the greed of the
few, the tendency was to attribute to this one famous craftsman the
works of many. At one time almost any work of art in bronze to be found
throughout the length and breadth of Germany was attributed to Peter
Vischer, just as a Talleyrand or a Sydney Smith has had witticisms of
every date and every quality fathered upon him.

From unreasoning praise, again, men passed to equally undiscriminating
disparagement. Heideloff arose and wished the world to see in Peter
Vischer nothing but the mere craftsman who put into bronze the designs
and models of Adam Krafft or another. The admirable labours of Retberg,
however, and of Dr. Lübke have shown how little foundation there is for
this view, and, more recently, by the application of the principles of
more exact art-criticism, Dr. Seeger, in his minute and loving study of
Peter Vischer the younger, has vindicated the claim of the great
craftsman’s son to rank with, or even above, his father as the first and
greatest exponent of Renaissance plastic-work in Germany.

To the two latter authors I have been continually and especially
indebted whilst writing the present monograph. For the use of very many
of the illustrations forming the volume to which Dr. Lübke contributed
the text, my best thanks and acknowledgements are due to the publisher,
Herr Stein, of Nuremberg.

                                                                   C. H.



         CHAPTER                                            PAGE

                LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS                        ix

                BIBLIOGRAPHY                                 xi


            II. PETER VISCHER: HIS LIFE                       9

           III. THE EARLY WORKS OF PETER VISCHER             20

            IV. THE SHRINE OF ST. SEBALD                     36

             V. THE TOMB OF MAXIMILIAN                       64



                  AND THE RATHAUS RAILING

            IX. THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF VISCHER            119

             X. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WORKS OF THE          130


                Index                                       142


                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

          PLATE                                           PAGE

            1. PORTRAIT OF PETER VISCHER                Frontispiece

            2. PETER VISCHER, THE CRAFTSMAN St. Sebald,    13

            3. TOMB OF ARCHBISHOP ERNST Cathedral,         23

            4. TOMB OF ARCHBISHOP ERNST Cathedral,         27

            5. ST. MAURICE Krafft House, Nürnberg          29

            6. MONUMENT OF COUNT HERMANN VIII. Church,     31

            7. TOMB OF ST. SEBALD St. Sebald, Nürnberg     43

            8. ST. PETER St. Sebald, Nürnberg              46

            9. ST. SEBALD St. Sebald, Nürnberg             47

           10. ST. SEBALD PUNISHES AN UNBELIEVER St.       55
                 Sebald, Nürnberg

           11. ST. SEBALD HEALING THE BLIND MAN St.        57
                 Sebald, Nürnberg

           12. ST. PAUL St. Sebald, Nürnberg               59

           13. ST. BARTHOLOMEW St. Sebald, Nürnberg        61

           14. THEODORIC, KING OF THE GOTHS Tomb of        68
                 Maximilian, Innsbruck

           15. KING ARTHUR Tomb of Maximilian,             69

                 LAZARUS Cathedral, Ratisbon

           17. BEWEINUNG CHRISTI St. Ægidius, Nürnberg     79

           18. THE NUREMBERG MADONNA Museum, Nürnberg      81

           19. ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE Collection of M.       90
                 Dreyfus, Paris

           20. ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE Museum, Berlin         93

           21. EARTHLY LIFE (INKSTAND) Ashmolean           96
                 Museum, Oxford

           22. HEAVENLY LIFE (INKSTAND) Ashmolean          97
                 Museum, Oxford

           23. ELECTOR FREDERICK THE WISE                 103
                 Schlosskirche, Wittenberg

           24. THE RATHAUS RAILING Formerly at Nürnberg   109

           25. THE RATHAUS RAILING Formerly at Nürnberg   113

           26. BOY WITH BAGPIPES Museum, Nürnberg         120

           27. TOMB-PLATE OF DUCHESS HELENE VON           121
                 MECKLENBURG Cathedral, Schwerin

           28. THE APOLLO FOUNTAIN Rathaus Court,         126



  Baader. Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte Nürnbergs.

  Bauer (Robert). Peter Vischer und das alte Nürnberg.

  Bergau (R). Peter Vischer, in Dohme’s Kunst und Künstler des
     Mittelalters, vol. ii.

  Bode. Geschichte der deutschen Plastik.

  Daun (Berthold). Adam Krafft und die Künstler seiner Zeit.

  Döbner (A. W.). Peter-Vischer-Studien.

  Edelberg (R. von E. von). Quellenschriften für Kunstgeschichte.

  Ephrussi (Charles). Albert Dürer et ses Dessins.

  Heideloff. Die Ornamente des Mittelalters.

  Jannsen. Geschichte des deutschen Volks.

  Lübke (Wilhelm). Peter Vischer und seine Werke.
  Lübke (Wilhelm). Renaissance in Deutschland.

  Mummenhoff (R. von). Das Rathaus in Nürnberg.

  Neudörffer. Nachrichten über Künstlern und Werkleuten Nürnbergs.

  Reicke (Emil). Geschichte der Reichstadt Nürnberg.

  Retberg (R. von). Nürnbergs Kunstleben in seinem Denkmalen

  Schönherr (David Ritter von). Geschichte des Grabmals Kaisers
     Maximilian I.

  Seeger (Georg). Peter Vischer der Jüngere.

  Sieghart. Geschichte der bildenden Künste in Baiern.

  Springer (Anton). Albrecht Dürer.


               “A man of amiable conversation and, among
          natural arts (to speak as a layman), finely skilled
                              in casting.”

                                                      JOHANN NEUDÖRFFER.


                             PETER VISCHER

                               CHAPTER I


IT was in the middle of the fifteenth century, a little before the year
1450, to be precise, that there wandered into the streets of Nuremberg a
working man, a common coppersmith, one Hermann Vischer by name. He came
no one knows whence. He came one can easily imagine why. Like the father
of Albert Dürer, and in the same decade, he was attracted to that
beautiful, busy old town by the greed of gain, as Shakespeare was drawn
to London, and many another worker in other arts and crafts has been
drawn to many another town. For Nuremberg at this time was the shining
jewel of the Holy Roman Empire, the centre of trade and the meeting
place of the Arts. Her geographical position and the business energy of
her sons had combined to throw into her lap all the commerce of the east
and south, of Italy and the Levant, with the northern nations.

The days were near at hand when this proud, free city of the Empire,
this trading staple of the German world, was to win the still nobler
title of “Albert Dürer’s and Hans Sachs’ City.” For the merchant princes
of the place, the Patricians as they called themselves, whilst they grew
in wealth and power, waxed also in enthusiasm for the sciences and arts.
They strove to make their town a German Florence, and by their lavish
expenditure upon the adornment of public and private buildings, both
attracted foreign genius and encouraged native talent. Regiomontanus on
the one hand, the great mathematician, chose Nuremberg for his place of
residence because he found there all the peculiar instruments necessary
for astronomy, and because the “perpetual journeyings of her merchants”
enabled him to keep in touch with the learned of all countries. These
perpetual journeyings of the merchant princes and great explorers, like
Behaim, reacted also upon the artists of the town; they contributed to
give them a wider outlook upon life, and brought within their reach the
wonderful works of Italy.

The broad culture of a Pirkheimer exercised an undoubted influence upon
the many-sided genius of Dürer, whilst the liberal atmosphere engendered
by travel made the citizens of Nuremberg ready to welcome in their midst
foreign artists like the elder Dürer, the elder Vischer and Veit Stoss,
and rendered the local artists themselves susceptible to the excellence
of foreign art. Not that the Nuremberg artists lack the local note. But
they readily accepted the ideas of Flemish realism and again of the
Italian Renaissance, and translated them into the terms of their own
speech. Albert Dürer, for instance, in spite of his wide experience,
always speaks in his art like his master Wolgemut, in the Nuremberg
dialect. The intense patriotism and the deep religious feeling which
formed so intimate a part of the lives of the citizens are reproduced in
their art and literature, giving the greatest examples of them the added
charm of locality. The religious spirit in which they worked lent a
great humility to these craftsmen. Sculpture and painting had indeed
been applied with splendid results to the adornment of domestic and
public life, results so splendid that the traveller Æneas Sylvius was
obliged to confess that the mansions of the burgesses seemed to have
been built for princes, and that the kings of Scotland would gladly be
housed as luxuriously as the ordinary citizen of Nuremberg. But the
chief work of men like Adam Krafft and Peter Vischer was given to the
beautifying of the churches. And, working as they did in a deeply
religious spirit, it is noticeable that when they represent themselves
in paint, bronze, wood or stone, they give themselves the humble pose of
suppliants, choosing always the lowliest place, and often, like Krafft
in the tabernacle in the Church of St. Lorenz, or Vischer in the
Sebaldusgrab in the Church of St. Sebald, they appear in their working
clothes, tools in hand, in the attitude of servants.

There, in a niche of the beautiful shrine he had wrought, with his
workman’s cap on his head and a large leather apron round his waist, and
in his hand hammer and chisel, the signs of his calling, stands
thick-set and full-bearded Peter Vischer, the modest, pious labourer,
whose reputation had spread beyond the limits of Germany, and whose
bronze work, the chronicler tells us, once filled Poland, Bohemia,
Hungary, and the palaces of princes throughout the Holy Roman Empire.
(Ill. 2.)

When Hermann Vischer came to Nuremberg the bronze industry had long been
pursued in Germany, and it had been pursued with some success. The
individuality of this indigenous art had been in early times
uninfluenced by foreign inspiration. While Venice had to go to
Constantinople for the bronze gates of St. Mark’s, and Rome was
acknowledging the supremacy of Byzantine ideals in the presence of the
gates of S. Paolo, in Germany, as Lübke points out, such works as the
doors of the Cathedrals of Hildesheim and Augsburg, the tomb-plates at
Magdeburg and Merseburg, or the great altar at Goslar, prove the
existence, albeit in a very crude and undeveloped state, of a native art
in bronze. The twelfth century saw the German foundries supplying many
an important font or cathedral door. The work of Lambert Patras von
Dinant (1112), the fonts in the cathedral at Osnabrück, the lions at
Brunswick and the doors of St. Sophia at Novgorod, exhibit indeed a very
considerable advance both in execution and design. The increasing use of
bronze for the sacred vessels and ornaments of the Church extended the
scope of the craftsmen, and the hey-day of the early Gothic period saw
no lack of tomb-plates, candelabra, and fonts from the German foundries.
The workmanship of these is good but undistinguished as it is
uninspired. It seldom even approaches in artistic merit the splendid
tomb of Konrad von Hochstaden in Cologne Cathedral, or the later,
vigorous equestrian statue of St. George in the cathedral at Prague,
wrought by Georg and Martin von Clussenbach in 1373.

Nuremberg, in spite of her wealth and commercial importance, had not, at
the time of the coming of Hermann Vischer, given birth as yet to any
great work of art in bronze. Almost the only old piece of bronze of any
importance to be seen in the churches there is the font in St. Sebald’s
Church. And its importance lies rather in the richness with which it is
wrought than in its artistic excellence (1350). This is the font in
which the Emperor Wenzel was baptized—a baptism which cost the town the
beautiful old parsonage, burnt down by the fires used to heat the water
for the imperial infant. The four squat apostolic figures represented
here in their straight, heavy mantles bear witness already to that
striving after a realistic representation of the great protagonists in
the sacred drama which was beginning to betray itself at this time in
the works of the nameless Nuremberg painters on the one hand, and, on
the other, of the Nuremberg sculptors, such as Hans Decker, the
forerunner of Adam Krafft. It was a tendency which the Nuremberg
artists, like their brethren of the Swabian school and the school of
Cologne owed to the influence of Flemish art. But this was a return to
Nature not without its faults. The German artist, in his eager endeavour
to reproduce the exact form of his models, of those, that is, whom he
saw around him every day, was badly served by the figures of his
countrymen. They could not give him the slim and graceful forms of the
Italians to copy, and he had not yet learnt from Italy those theories of
beauty, based on a study of the antique, which were one day to help an
Albert Dürer to perform the true function of an artist by improving upon

Of Hermann Vischer himself and his doings we know very little. Very
little also of his work survives. We know that he became a Burgher of
his adopted town and, in 1453, rose to be a Master in the Guild of
Rotschmieds. That he gained some reputation in his day, and not at home
only, is shown by the fact that four years later he cast the Font for
the parish church at Wittenberg. Several tomb-plates at Meissen and
Bamberg are also attributed to him. These confirm us in the impression
that he had no great individuality. He was an excellent workman without
being endowed with the superlative excellence of the artist. For the
Font at Wittenberg, which is cast in the Gothic manner with small,
undistinguished figures of the apostles, is a work of very little
importance. In Nuremberg, where he lived in a house “Am Sand” in the
Schiessgraben, there is one work which is generally attributed to
Hermann, although it is quite possibly from the hand of one Eberhard
Vischer who became a master in 1459 and died in 1488, just one year
later than Hermann. The work to which we refer is the large bronze
Crucifix outside the central window of the Löffelholz chapel of the
church of St. Sebald, which was presented by the Starck family in 1482.
It was remodelled in 1625, and on that occasion the Nurembergers earned
the nick-name of Herrgottschwärzer or Blackeners of the Lord. For the
story ran that the cross was made of silver, and that the Council of the
town resolved that it should be painted black in order to preserve it
from the roving bands of soldiers that passed through the town during
the Thirty Years’ War. The figure on the cross is that of a Hercules
rather than of a Christ. The feet are each nailed separately after the
ancient manner.

Hermann Vischer was twice married. By his first wife, Felicitas, he had
one daughter, Martha, and one son, Peter, the date of whose birth is not
known. By his second wife he had three sons of no importance, and he
died in 1487, in the year which saw the birth of his second grandson,
Peter Vischer the younger, to whom, it will be shown in the succeeding
chapters, many of the finest works usually attributed to the elder Peter
must now probably be credited.


                               CHAPTER II

                        PETER VISCHER: HIS LIFE

PETER VISCHER, the great bronze-founder, whose work and that of his
house embodies the complete transition from the Gothic to the
Renaissance style in Germany, was born and brought up in his father’s
house in “Am Sand.” There he lived, and he worked as an apprentice with
his father in the Town Foundry in the White Tower all the days of his
boyhood. So much we may assume, although we know nothing of his youth,
and no one of all the men since dead would be more surprised than he to
find himself the subject of a monograph, or would be more genuinely
astonished to learn that his up-bringing is a source of interest to
later generations. For he appears to us in the few historical documents
in which he figures as the perfect type of the plain, unspoilt craftsman
or Master of a Guild. A man was not an artist in those days, but a mere
stonemason, or smith or painter. But, lacking the title, he did not
necessarily lack the quality. The study of design was never more
enthusiastic, the struggle after excellence never more sincere than in
the days when Dürer’s art was regarded as a mere parasite of other
trades, when Hans Sachs was

                         —Macher und Poet dazu,”

and when Peter Vischer laboured in his leather apron at the foundry, or
turned from the entertaining of Emperors to spend his leisure hours in
the endeavour to improve his draughtsmanship. I have said that we know
nothing of the latter’s boyhood, but if in his case the child was father
of the man, he must have been a diligent youth. Johann Neudörffer
(1497-1563), an artistic scribe and the man in whom succeeding ages have
had to bless the inventor of German type, has left us a charming picture
of him in later days. “This Peter Vischer was a man of amiable
conversation,” he writes in his _Nachrichten über Nürnberger Künstler
und Werkleute_, a work which is not indeed free from errors, but to
which we owe the earliest accounts we have of most of the Nuremberg
artists, “and among natural arts (to speak as a layman) finely skilled
in casting and so much renowned among the nobility that when any prince
or great potentate came to the town he seldom omitted to pay him a visit
in his foundry, for he went every day to his casting shop and worked

Adam Krafft the sculptor, we learn from the same source, and Sebastien
Lindenast the coppersmith, who made works of art of copper “as if they
had been of gold or silver,” were his two bosom friends. They seemed, we
are told, to have but one heart. All three were equally simple,
disinterested, and ever eager to learn. “They were like brothers; every
Friday, even in their old age, they met and studied together like
apprentices, as the designs which they executed at their meetings prove.
Then they separated in friendly wise, but without having eaten or drunk
together.” The spirit of the Reformation had breathed upon these men and
inspired them with a new and burning zeal for art and knowledge and

As a boy then, we may assume, Peter Vischer worked as an apprentice with
his father. For in those days any youth destined for a certain trade had
to be apprenticed to some master of that trade, who was responsible for
his education both in mind and morals during his years of learning
(Lehrjahre). And almost everything made by hand, every manufactured
article was the monopoly of some trade corporation. Every trade, too,
and almost every department of a trade, had its separate costume. Each
craft bore its special garb or mark of distinction. The masters and high
officials of each were often notably bedizened, and garments
distinguished the Sabbath from the week day as clearly as they
distinguished the merchant from the shopkeeper. The rules and
regulations by which wages and prices, and the amount of work to be done
and holiday kept, and the relations of the members of the Guild were
fixed, were strictly enforced, and could only be infringed at the risk
of heavy penalties. The boundaries between the trades were clearly laid
down and rigidly observed. For the Middle Ages were riddled with
Socialism, and this was a form of it. The Guild system resulted in an
arbitrary and irritating enforcement of the division of labour, which
finds its counterpart nowadays in the observances of the Trades Unions
and several of the learned professions. The man who made a window-frame
was a window-frame maker and might not insert the window-pane unless he
had also qualified as a glazier. Only a locksmith was allowed to fix the
casement to it, and it was a joiner’s business and a joiner’s only to
embellish it with carving.



The position of the Bronze Workers in this hierarchy of trades does not
appear to have been in any way exceptional. The usual tendency of son to
succeed father in the trade, to labour first as youth and apprentice and
then as master and married man, to work on in his father’s shop and to
live in his father’s house is carried out in the case of the Vischer
family. And thanks to this fact we can trace in the works of their house
the development of native German art, passing from late Gothic, slightly
influenced by Flemish realism, into the full flower of that German
renaissance, which is not directly a “New Birth” of the art of old days,
but only the second-hand influence of that revival as reflected with a
sudden and momentary brilliancy by the productions of German artists who
had travelled in Italy and studied with profit Italian works.

On the expiration of his apprenticeship Peter Vischer would naturally,
like other German youths, start on a period of travel—his _Wanderjahre_.

Whither he went we know not, but it is most probable that he turned his
steps towards the Netherlands, where he could study the marvels of the
new style of Flemish realism which had begun to exercise a potent
influence upon the Nuremberg painters of his day.

But whether he reached the Netherlands or not of one thing we may be
certain. Neither now nor at any subsequent period did he go to Italy.

It was indeed at one time thought and affirmed that he sojourned there
once at least and perhaps twice. (_Sandrart, Teutscher Academie_, 1675.)
But there is not one jot or tittle of evidence to support this theory,
which was intended to supply us with the source whence he drew the
inspiration for the second and third periods of his art.

After his Wanderjahre he returned to Nuremberg, and living in his
father’s house, in friendship with Adam Krafft, and in an atmosphere of
late Gothic tradition permeated by Flemish realism, he entered upon the
first period of his work, which ended, we may say, with the year 1507,
and of which the Magdeburg Monument was the highest expression and
achievement. Vischer was by nature an idealist, and he quickly grew out
of sympathy with the aims of the realistic school. But even in this tomb
of Archbishop Ernst we can trace the influence exercised by Michel
Wolgemut on the one hand, and of Martin Schön, through his
copper-plates, on the other, as it is displayed in the striving after
life and truth even at the expense of beauty, which is clearly
noticeable in the figures, faces and heads of the apostles. The
architecture and design, however, are cast in the late Gothic mould.

The works that belong to the second period of the Vischer foundry show a
pure, plastic sense of form and rhythm emerging from the overwhelming
dominion of late Gothic extravagance. The childish things of that style
have been put away by the mature artist, and, in obedience to the
teaching of the drawings of Jacopo de’ Barbari, whom Dürer called “a
lovable, good painter,” and of the drawings of early Renaissance work in
North Italy, which Peter the younger had made in his Wanderjahre there,
the great masterpiece of the house, the Sebaldusgrab, takes shape in a
style that is a curious mixture of the Mediæval and Renaissance manners.

Finally, when Hermann Vischer, Peter’s eldest son, had made a journey to
Rome and returned thence laden with drawings, father and sons gave
themselves up to a whole-hearted worship of the beauty of form and an
eager copying of the antique which resulted in the most beautiful piece
of pure Renaissance work which ever issued from a German workshop—the
Rathaus Railing, destined to be sold in the fulness of years and melted
down for the value of its metal!

The life of Peter Vischer was simple and domestic, but very full of toil
and trouble and private grief made bearable perhaps by his absorbing
enthusiasm for his work. A few years before his father’s death, probably
in 1485, he married Margaretha, daughter of Hans Gross. A document,
dated October 4th, 1490, gives us a slight glimpse of her character.
Therein her father records that he makes a present to his daughter of
the green mantle and veil with which he had provided her on her wedding
day, but at the same time he binds Peter Vischer with all the
paraphernalia of judges, witnesses and solemn pledges not to allow her
to sell or pawn the said articles. The date of this document led to the
erroneous conclusion that the marriage only took place in 1489, but Dr.
Seeger has recently pointed out that on a medallion by Peter Vischer the
younger he expressly states that he was twenty-two years of age when he
wrought it, and this in the year 1509. Since Neudörffer, the Nuremberg
Vasari, refers to Hermann as “the famous Peter Vischer’s _eldest_ son,”
the marriage must have occurred somewhere about 1485. There was also a
third son by this union, known afterwards as Hans der Giesser.
Margaretha died shortly after the birth of this last son, and in 1493 we
find Peter married again to Dorothea von Gericht. She died soon
afterwards, leaving him a daughter, Margaretha, and then he took to
himself another Margaretha. Meantime he worked like his father at the
town Foundry in the White Tower, and lived in the house he had
inherited, “Am Sande.” But in 1505 he moved to a house behind the
Convent of St. Catherine, which had fallen to him by inheritance. On
July 26th of that year he was chosen “Street Captain” (Gassenhauptman)
of the Barfüsser or Franciscan quarter of the town, and in the following
year he and Margaretha signed a legal document declaring that they had
bought another house for 120 fl. Part of this house they pulled down and
threw into a third adjoining one which they had also acquired. Thus they
formed a single large foundry of their own and enjoyed possession of
their own dwelling house next door. This house still stands in the
street now called Peter Vischerstrasse. Two other sons came to him by
this marriage, Jakob and Paul. Then in 1522 he was again left a widower
and a widower he remained the last seven years of his life, although
historians, concluding that he had formed an ineradicable habit of
matrimony, have placed a fourth wife to his credit. Barbara they name
her and say that she survived him. But as her name does not appear in
the documents dealing with the partition of property immediately after
his death it seems probable that they are thinking of Barbara, the wife
of Peter Vischer the younger. For he and his family were living in his
father’s house, and seeing that Hermann, the elder son, had died in 1516
and his wife, Ursula Mag, in 1514, it was natural that Barbara, on the
death of the old man’s third wife should take care of him and charge of
his house. Peter the younger died in 1528, but Barbara and her six
children would still live on beneath the paternal roof till the old
Bronze-worker died in 1529. The famous foundry was inherited by her
brother-in-law Paul, who sold it to his brother Hans, and Barbara,
within a few months, found another husband in Jorg Schott, the
goldsmith, and another home.[1]

Footnote 1:

  Seeger, “Peter Vischer der Jüngere.”

Thus it will be seen that the life of Peter Vischer, although it was
over-full of domestic bereavements, was, on the whole and apart from his
work, the ordinary happy home life of the German citizen. He fulfilled
his duties and had his successes as a burgher. For he was one of the
_Genannten_ of the Great Council both in 1516 and again in 1520. He was
also appointed in 1506 to the Committee which was to consider the
restoration of that extraordinary old clock in the Frauenkirche, known
to young and old in Nuremberg as the “Männleinlaufen,” the copper
figures in which were cast by his friend Sebastien Lindenast.

For the rest he hardly ever left Nuremberg, and never for long or to go
far. It has been one of the difficulties of art criticism to explain how
it came about, therefore, that this modest, stay-at-home burgher should
have gone on all his life developing and adopting the new ideas and the
recent revelations of Italian art, discarding the traditions in which he
had been brought up, and finally learning the latest lesson of the
Renaissance with such success that in his old age there came forth from
his workshop the noblest work of German craftsmanship.


                              CHAPTER III


PETER VISCHER was admitted as a Master of his Guild in 1489, shortly
after his father’s death. If, as is generally admitted, the monument of
Count Otto IV. von Henneberg at Römhild is from his hand, we have in
that rather limp, life-size picture of a knight in armour, holding an
heraldic banner in his right hand and a sword in his left, the earliest
example of Peter Vischer’s work. And this figure, it is noticeable, is
supported by a _stone_ plate to which the arms and the inscription, in
letters separately cast, are affixed. It is, then, a relic of those days
when, just as painting was a parasite of carving and sculpture, bronze
also was a handmaid of stone. It may be added that the demand for the
products of Vischer’s foundry was fated to be destroyed in the years to
come by the new fashion for tombs in stone.

But the monument of Count Otto assuredly did not qualify Peter Vischer
as a Meister in his craft. What his “masterpiece” was we cannot say with
certainty, but it was very likely the model which he completed in 1488
for the shrine of St. Sebald. This is the design which he was destined
to take up twenty years later, and to execute in the fulness of his new
knowledge and developed technique. It is now in Vienna, and betrays at
every point the influence of Adam Krafft, to the style of whose
Sacramentshaüslein it bears an obvious resemblance. Heideloff, the
architect, in whose possession the model once was, attributed it indeed
to Veit Stoss. But it is signed by Peter Vischer with his mark

                 [Illustration: Peter Vischer’s Mark.]

Heideloff, it is true, claimed this as the token of Veit Stoss, but his
opinion is of little value, for his enthusiasm for the Polish carver led
him to claim for him amongst other works the design of the tomb of
Archbishop Ernst, the Römhild memorials of Count Hermann VIII. and of
Otto IV., and even the Imperial tomb of Maximilian at Innsbruck.

Of the original design for the Sebaldusgrab, Lübke says, “It is a
masterpiece of Gothic construction but freely endowed with all the
exaggeration and extravagance of the late period.” And there can be no
doubt that the world lost nothing by the delay which intervened before
Peter Vischer, in the words of the chronicler, “with the help of his
five sons, who were all married and lived for the most part with him in
the house with their wives and children, as I myself have seen,”
remodelled it and completed it at last on July 19, 1519.

After commencing Meister he continued to work for a while in the Gothic
manner of his father and those about him. He received at this time two
commissions worth sixty florins apiece, which he executed after the
designs of others. The tomb of Bishop Heinrich III., Gross von Trockau,
in Bamberg Cathedral (1492) is one of these. It is skilfully wrought in
low relief. The bishop, in his episcopal garments, is conceived as
standing on a lion, and a Gothic canopy is set over his head. In style
it recalls the second commission referred to—the monument in the same
cathedral of Bishop Georg II., Marshal von Ebenet, which was wrought by
Vischer from a design by Wolf. Katzheimer.



By the year 1494 the Meister had already laid the foundations of the
great reputation which was to be his. For, in company with Simon
Lamberger, the wood-carver, he was summoned to Heidelberg by Philip,
Elector of the Palatinate, who desired them to “serve him with their
counsel and their handiwork.” At the special request of the Nuremberg
Council, so we are told,[2] they went; and they stayed there for a
considerable space of time to work for the Elector. But of the work they
performed at Heidelberg we know absolutely nothing. Peter Vischer was
certainly back again in Nuremberg in 1496. For in that year he gave a
full release (“aller Dinge quitt, ledig und los”) to his friend Peter
Harsdorffer the younger, in whose hands he had left the management of
all his affairs during his absence. He returned, perhaps, to execute the
important commissions he had received from the North. In the following
year he completed the first great work of his life, in which his own
individuality is for the first time apparent. For the tomb of Archbishop
Ernst in the Cathedral at Magdeburg, is the first of Peter Vischer’s
masterpieces, and it affords the most important illustration of the
early influences under which he worked. The statue of the Archbishop,
who was a brother of John the Stable and Frederick the Wise, lies in
high relief beneath a Gothic Canopy, which strongly recalls the famous
Pyx then just completed by the artist’s friend, Adam Krafft. The figure,
which is represented in cope and mitre, rests on a stone Gothic base, as
upon a bed of state, and holds in its hands a crosier and a Pontifical
Cross. A pleasing Latin inscription round the monument informs us that
“with whatever art the hands of the craftsman have wrought me, yet am I
but dust, and contain the dust and all the earthly remains” of the great
Archbishop, and it concludes with the prayer that his soul may rest in
the consolation of light and peace. (Ills. 3 and 4.)

Footnote 2:


_Ipse me vivus posuit_, it is added. And indeed this Child of Light was
wise in his generation, and knowing that artists are rare, and that
through their pen or brush alone can most men achieve an earthly
immortality, the archbishop had ordered his tomb from Peter Vischer in
1494, though he himself did not die till 1513. He was not so foolish as
to leave the matter to the care of ungrateful heirs like Browning’s
Bishop who ordered his tomb in St. Praxed’s Church. The date on the
tombstone, which is the date of the setting up thereof, is variously
interpreted 1495 and 1497. But all Peter Vischer’s 5’s are quite unlike
the final figure in this inscription, although many perceive in it a 5
after the manner of the Arabic lettering of those days. Moreover Vischer
was in Heidelberg in 1494, and only returned to Nuremberg to stay in
1496. Only at Nuremberg can he have had the appliances necessary for so
elaborate a work, and, even if he paid a flying visit there before ’96,
he had not sufficient time to complete his task by 1495. There is yet
another reason for putting the date of the Magdeburg monument as late as
possible, and that is its amazing superiority to the Breslau tomb of
Bishop John IV., the setting up of which Peter Vischer himself
personally superintended in 1496. The latter monument is so inferior in
style and treatment that it is incredible that the artist, after having
made such an advance as is exhibited in the Magdeburg memorial, should
have gone back in the following year to so hard, forced and yet feeble a
handling of form. If this Breslau tomb is indeed later than the other it
must be the work of an apprentice, who has endeavoured to imitate the
idea of the Magdeburg masterpiece, and very lamentably failed in his
endeavour. The decorative work, however, is very much more successful
than the treatment of the figures, of which the drapery still completely
hides the anatomy and still falls in stiff and angular folds.



But to return to the tomb of Archbishop Ernst. The artist has adopted
that late Gothic style which was apt to lead to so much that was weak,
trivial and ineffective. But there is here nothing that is excessive or
disproportionate. Even in the case of the canopy above the head of the
reclining Bishop, if we concede the permissibility of its presence at
all, we must also confess that there is an artistic reason for its
existence in the fact that it furnishes the top which one feels to be
required for the monument. As to the recumbent form itself, it is, in
the strength of its treatment and the individuality of its portraiture,
conceived after the realistic manner of the day. But Vischer has not
been betrayed into any excess in this direction. Only it is evident that
the influence of that striving after the impressions of life as the
artist sees it, which has been called Realism, and which yet leaves room
for so much that is ideal, has been working strongly within him. The
broad, heavy folds of drapery falling straight or almost straight down
the bodies of the Bishop and the Apostles speak also to the same
conclusion. For statuettes of the Twelve Apostles, ranged on either side
of the tomb, stand on pedestals, enriched with deep foliage, and beneath
beautiful canopies, intricately wrought in the Gothic style. They are
the forerunners of those superb figures on the Sebaldusgrab, but their
pose is very monotonous, and in their undersize they recall the works of
Adam Krafft, which reflect the short and dumpy type of the contemporary
Nuremberger. A tendency to exaggerate the size of the head may be
noticed. Possibly it is the result of the artist’s endeavour to express
the individuality of the Apostles he represented. But this defect is
reproduced in the Angel set at the head of the Archbishop.

A noticeable figure on this tomb is the St. Maurice at the head of it
corresponding to the St. Stephen at the foot. This is a veritable
Nuremberg type, and reminds us of the statuette of the same Saint now
preserved in the Court of Krafft’s House (No. 7 Theresienstrasse) at
Nuremberg. It is a fountain-figure, and was originally gilded. Doubt has
been cast on the authorship of this piece, but cannot be seriously
entertained after a comparison with the St. Maurice at Magdeburg. (Ill.



The tomb throughout is wrought richly and with the minutest care. On the
base Peter Vischer seizes the opportunity of indulging his humour and
luxuriant imagination. He has added fantastic dogs and beasts of various
kinds, in the same spirit, perhaps, as that in which Dürer used to adorn
and complete his engravings and even to crowd the vacant spaces of his
compositions with the _Traumwerk_ with which his mind and memory were
stored. And in this respect also the Magdeburg tomb foreshadows the

At the four corners are four lions bearing arms; above are four others
poised in the manner of gargoyles on some Gothic building; whilst on the
top, at each corner, standing on groups of Gothic pilasters are, or
rather were, the symbols of the four Evangelists; for the eagle has been
broken off and has disappeared now from its base.

During the next few years (1497-1508) many works were turned out of the
Vischer Foundry; several of which were based on the designs of other
artists, most probably at the request of the patron. Some of those which
we can identify as coming from Vischer’s workshop in this fashion, such
as the monument of Bishop Georg II. of Bamberg, which was executed after
the design by Wolfgang Katzheimer, the Bamberg painter, or the monuments
of Bishop Veit and Heinrich III. are of absolutely no interest to the
student of Peter Vischer’s art.



But two monuments, this time of temporal princes, which belong to the
same period, have a greater interest and a higher merit. They are the
memorials of Count Eitel Friedrich II. von Hohenzollern in the parish
church of Hechingen (1500), and of Count Hermann VIII., at Römhild.
(Ill. 6.) No one who has familiarized himself with the master’s manner
will fail to perceive that, if these monuments have been executed by him
in bronze, they have no less certainly been based upon the design of
another hand. And no one who has studied the drawings of Albert Dürer,
and who now compares these knightly figures, for instance, with some of
those mail-clad forms of his, whether it be Lucas Baumgärtner or
another, will be astonished to learn that Bergau has discovered and
published that design, and that it proves to be indeed by Dürer. For
that pen-and-ink drawing now at Florence, that sketch of the tall, thin
knight, who is standing on a lion in a position that is, it must be
confessed, both straddling and constrained, and who is apparently
speaking to his wife, whose feet are set, according to the convention,
upon a dog, the symbol of fidelity, is undeniably the first sketch for
the tomb of Count Eitel and his wife Magdalena, Countess of Brandenburg,
which is now to be found in the parish church of Hechingen. Certain very
obvious variations have, however, been introduced, whether by the
designer in a second sketch, or, as is most probable, by the
bronze-worker on his own initiative. The figures, which in the original
are excessively separate, have been brought closer together, and
thereby, whilst the lion and dog on which they stand have suffered, an
opportunity for the development of the background has been provided. A
trace of this process is observable also in the position of the Count’s
right elbow, which protrudes to the extreme outside edge of the frame.
The left hand, holding a rosary, is another innovation, but it is not
one for which in its execution any gain in grace can be claimed. Other
minor alterations, also, may be remarked, as in the drapery and in the
pose of the Countess, which is beautiful and Vischer-like. The
substitution of the three coats-of-arms for the late Gothic work in
Dürer’s sketch is noteworthy.

Unfortunately, as Lübke points out, this monument has not come down to
us complete. Originally it was a _Freigrab_ resting on lions, and the
sides of it were richly decorated. Angels are said to have stood at the
four corners, some of them supporting candlesticks and others
coats-of-arms. But in this instance, as in a later and still more
regrettable one, the craftsman was destined to suffer from the greed
inspired by the value of the material in which he wrought. For, in 1782,
portions of this tomb were melted down, and twenty-two new candlesticks
for the church were cast out of the nearly one thousand pounds of metal
resulting. The date of the tomb is fixed approximately by the death of
the Countess, which occurred in 1496. The Count himself died in 1512,
and he probably ordered the monument soon after his wife’s death. It
bears the date MCCCCC.

Elizabeth, sister of the Countess Magdalena, daughter of Prince Albert
Achilles, of Brandenburg, had married Count Hermann VIII. of Henneberg,
and it is doubtless due to this relationship that the double tomb of
husband and wife at Römhild was made from the same sketch and by the
same craftsman as the memorial at Hechingen. It was indeed probably the
earlier of the two. So at least Bergau argues, from the fact that it is
nearer to the original sketch by Dürer. The Count, in this version of
the design, holds a banner, the floating folds of which form an
efficient background. The drapery of the Countess instead of being
gathered up into her hands is caught up to her sides in graceful flowing

Peter Vischer knew how to make a thrifty use of accomplished models.
Here, as originally at Hechingen, he repeated the symbols of the four
Evangelists which he had used for his Magdeburg masterpiece. The tomb
stands upon six vigorous and life-like lions, and, says Lübke, among the
various saints who are ranged round the sarcophagus is a Madonna
pressing to her breast the Holy Child, who is turning with a quick and
very natural movement towards the eldest of the three kings who bring
gifts. These are all figures quite in the best manner of Peter Vischer’s
early style. And several of the other saints are almost equally good. As
usual the details are worked with admirable skill.

The following letters are engraved on this tomb: M. F. W. S. 15 C.
Döbner was inspired to interpret them thus: “Meister Fischer und Fünf
Söhne”; and again with a second effort: “Meister Fischer Waage Sebaldi
15 Centner.” These interpretations, I suppose, carry with them their own
refutation. They do not encourage one to make a third attempt.


                               CHAPTER IV

                        THE SHRINE OF ST. SEBALD

 “In the Church of Sainted Sebald sleeps enshrined his holy dust,
 And in bronze the Twelve Apostles guard from age to age their

THE Magdeburg monument, whilst it bears obvious traces of the influence
of his father Hermann, of the school of Wolgemut, and of Adam Krafft
upon the art of Peter Vischer, is an eloquent testimony also to the
rapid development which was taking place in the mind and ideas of this
eager craftsman. We have now reached the period when the ideals and the
lessons of the Renaissance begin to master his imagination and to
permeate his art to such a degree and with such success that the work
which was next commissioned from him proves to be the first and greatest
of Renaissance works in Germany. The shrine of St. Sebald reflects the
history of the artist’s mind. Upon a Gothic base and foundation the
spirit of Renaissance detail has overwhelmingly impressed itself. Before
we consider this work more closely it will be as well to state the
sources whence our Nuremberg craftsman drew his new inspirations. How
did he learn his lessons in Italian art?

In the first place it would seem probable that Jacopo de’ Barbari lived
for some time in Nuremberg during the last years of the fifteenth
century. It is at any rate certain that the influence exerted by his
drawings upon the Nuremberg artists was strong and lasting. Further, it
was only natural that Nuremberg, lying as it did on the direct trade
route from east to north, should be in close communication with Venice
and the great towns of Northern Italy. Venetians came to Nuremberg;
Nuremberg traders and artists, like Dürer, in their Wanderjahre, went to
Venice and returned laden with the fruits of their Italian studies, and
copies of the works of Italian masters. The Patrician youths of
Nuremberg, also, would naturally sojourn at the Italian Universities at
Padua, Bologna, and elsewhere, and they would bring home with them
Italian books and wood-cuts, examples of the copper-plates of Jacopo de’
Barbari and of the works of Andrea Sansovino.

But we seek for a more direct and personal source of contact to explain
the intimate enthusiasm for Italian art displayed by Peter Vischer. And
the secret of this source, which had remained hitherto undiscovered, has
recently been made public by the elaborate researches of Dr. Georg

Footnote 3:

  “Peter Vischer der Jüngere.” Leipzig, 1897.

Peter Vischer’s second son and namesake, he reminds us, is mentioned
pointedly by the chroniclers in one passage[4] as having done the
greater part of the work on the Sebaldusgrab, “for he excelled his
father and brother in art”; and in another[5] as having “taken his
pleasure in reading the Poets and Historians, whence he then, with the
aid of Pancratz Schwenter, extracted many beautiful poems and
illuminated them. He was in all things not less accomplished and skilful
than his aforesaid brother Hermann, and he too died in his prime.” Now
this young craftsman, it would appear, when the period of his
“wandering” was at hand, turned his feet, like his fellow-townsman Dürer
before him, towards Lombardy, “the Paradise of all arts.” His
imagination, doubtless, had already been fired by what he had seen of
the North Italian Renaissance in the treasures brought to Nuremberg by
merchants, travellers and artists. But the expenses of an Italian tour
were beyond the resources of the Vischer household. Fortune and his
father’s friends were kind to him; he was entrusted, probably through
the influence of Sebald Schreyer, the historian and patron of art, with
the task of “travelling” the famous _Schedel-Weltchronik_, which had
been published in 1492, with illustrations by Wolgemut and Pleydenwurff.
Booksellers’ accounts enable us to trace the journey of the young
craftsman. He passed through Como, where the façade of the cathedral, at
that time in course of construction, had many a lesson in the Early
Renaissance style to teach him, and he came to Milan, the metropolis of
Northern Italy. There he sold one hundred and ninety-one copies of the
book, and in the intervals of business he occupied himself with the
study of the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, from which, like many
another artist since, he learnt his first lessons in anatomy and
proportion. There also he may have acquired the art of medallion and
plaquette work, for it was about this time that he produced the first
medallion which comes from the hand of a German craftsman—the portrait
of his brother Hermann, dated 1507. From Milan he went south. He visited
the Certosa of Pavia, and he filled his sketch book with drawings from
the façade of that luxuriant example of the Early North Italian
Renaissance. He studied with especial care the figure of his patron
saint, and afterwards he reproduced it in the St. Peter of the
Sebaldusgrab. Thence he passed to Genoa, where he sold more books and
studied, perhaps, the marble Madonna of Andrea Sansovino. And so home,
in 1508, by way of Verona and Venice. Inspired by what he had seen, he
brought new life and inspiration to the workshop at Nuremberg. The
result of his journey was that he passed completely under the influence
of Italian art; he was filled with that untrammelled revelling in
existence and that unalloyed worship of the beautiful which is the
keynote of the Renaissance. He had learnt the value of the study of the
nude, and he had seen, as every artist must see, the superiority of the
Italian over the Bavarian model. Hereafter the tendency to discard the
short and sturdy types of the school of Krafft, and to substitute more
slender and more beautiful figures for the Apostles is marked. The
results of this Italian journey of his are clearly discernible not only
in the Sebaldusgrab, but also in his own particular works, in the two
medallions of his brother Hermann, executed in 1507 and 1511; and in
that of himself in 1509; in the beautiful plaquettes, “Orpheus and
Eurydice”; in the two inkstands and the ornamentation of the tomb of
Frederick the Wise in Wittenberg, with which we shall presently deal.

Footnote 4:

  Kunz Rösner. MS. 933 b. Library, Nuremberg.

Footnote 5:


Remembering that picture of the father spending his holidays in drawing
with his friends Lindenast and Krafft, it is easy to imagine that the
old man, ever young, enthusiastic, humble and eager to learn, readily
appreciated and welcomed the revelations contained in the son’s sketch
books. He was already at work upon a Gothic shrine for St. Sebald’s
remains, but he soon modified his original plan, improving and enriching
it by the light of this new learning.

Ere the fires of that inspiration had yet begun to grow cold, and before
the Sebaldusgrab was more than half finished, another member of the
family took yet another journey. Hermann, the eldest son, had married
Ursula Mag in November of the year 1513. “When his wife left him in
death,” Neudörffer tells us, “he went for art’s sake and at his own cost
to Rome, and brought back with him much artistic material which he had
sketched there, and which greatly pleased his father and served as good
practice for his brothers.” Hermann himself died shortly after his
return, in the year 1516. He was run over by a sleigh in St.
Gilgen-strasse one night as he was returning to his home in the
Kornmarkt from the house of his friend Wolfgang Traut, the painter, and
thus “perished in his prime, in sad and piteous wise.” But that journey
of his had not been taken in vain. His drawings revealed to the old
burgher at home the further developments of art and some of the wonders
of the full Florentine-Roman Renaissance. The result can be traced in
some of the figures on the Sebaldusgrab, and, later, in that complete
acceptance of the revival of the antique which is expressed in the
Rathaus Railing.

The idea of a shrine to contain the relics of St. Sebald had long been
in contemplation, as is proved by the existence of Vischer’s early
model. But funds lacked, and it was not till a robbery was committed in
the Church in 1506, that a Society of Patricians and of the most
important men in the town was formed to consider and provide for the
carrying out of the long delayed plan. Men of wealth and learning, piety
and taste, like Sebald Schreyer, the devoted Sacristan of the church,
Anton Tucher, Peter Imhof and Lazarus Holzschuher formed a committee and
took an active part in subscribing and collecting money for the purpose.
A spirit of generous rivalry with those of the Saint Laurence quarter,
whose church, thanks to the piety of Hans Imhof, had been adorned by the
beautiful Pyx wrought by Adam Krafft, stimulated their zeal. They
subscribed and collected with such success that in the same year (1507)
the commission was given to Peter Vischer. Two thousand gulden was the
proposed cost, and twenty gulden were allowed the Meister for every
hundred-weight of completed work, “as in the case of the monuments in
the Cathedral at Bamberg.” A payment of 100 gulden was made to him on
June 5, 1507. His darling plan was, then, at last to be realized.
Vischer threw himself into his work with an enthusiasm only equalled by
his energy. For twelve years he with his five sons laboured, though
their labour was often interrupted by want of funds. Private
subscriptions failed to supply the cost even of the 157 cwt. of metal
used. At last, when, in 1519, Anton Tucher in moving words had told the
citizens that they ought to subscribe the 800 gulden still needed “for
the glory of God and His Holy Saint,” the money was forthcoming. The
monument was completed and the final payment for it made to Vischer
three years later. Elsewhere I have thus described it.



“On the base of the shrine the Master inscribed in his favourite Gothic
characters the following legend:—‘Peter Vischer Bürger in Nürnberg
machet dieses Werk, mit seinen Söhnen, ward volbracht im Jahr, 1519. Ist
allein Gott dem allmächtigen zu lob und St. Sebald dem Himmelsfürsten zu
ehren, mit Hülf andächtiger Leut von dem Almosen bezahlt.’

“That is the keynote of this wonderful structure. Through years of
difficulty and distress the pious artist had toiled and struggled on
with the help of pious persons, paid by their voluntary contributions,
to complete a work “to the praise of God Almighty alone and the honour
of St. Sebald.” No word, one feels, can add to the simple dignity and
faith of that inscription. It supplies us with the motive of the work,
and it supplies us also with the true interpretation of the various
groups and figures which form the shrine. To the glory of God,—we are
shown how all the world, all nature and her products, all paganism with
its heroic deeds and natural virtues, the Old Dispensation with its
prophets and lawgivers, and the New, with its apostles and saints, pay
homage to the Infant Christ, the guardian genius bringing salvation,
who, enthroned on the summit of the central cupola, holds in his hands
the terrestrial globe. To the honour of St. Sebald,—the miniature Gothic
Chapel enshrines beneath its richly fretted canopy, fifteen feet high,
the oaken coffer encased in beaten plates of gold and silver in which
lie the bones of St. Sebald; and below this sarcophagus, which dates
from 1397, are admirable bas-reliefs representing scenes and miracles
from the life of the Saint.



“Around the substructure of the tomb rise eight slender piers, bearing
eight foliated arches, which, in turn, support three perforated cupolas
enriched with pillared and arched buttresses. In the centre of these
arches are placed richly ornamented candlesticks, with candles of
bronze, and these also serve as supports and run out into leafy chalices
on which graceful children play and swing. The bases of the eight
slender pillars are formed by all sorts of strange figures and creatures
suggestive of the world of pagan mythology, gods of the forest and of
the sea, nymphs of the water and the wood. Between them are some lions
couchant which recall to the memory Wolgemut’s Peringsdörffer
altarpiece. At the four corners are real candlesticks held by the most
graceful and seductive winged mermaids, with fish-tails and taloned
feet, about whom serpents twine. But the most famous and the most
beautiful figures are those of the twelve apostles, which stand, each
about two feet high, under delicate canopies, on shafts of the piers
already mentioned. Clad in graceful, flowing robes, their expression and
whole attitude eloquent both of vigour and of tranquil dignity, these
statues are wholly admirable. What sculpture or painting could convey to
a higher degree the sense of the intellectual and moral beauty and
strength which centred in these first followers of Christ? This
characteristic pervades them all, but the unity of suggestion is
conveyed through a variety of individualities and of pose. Each Apostle
stands forth distinct in the vigour of his own inspired personality.
(Ill. 8 and 9.)

“Above the apostles are set the Fathers of the Church, or it may be, the
twelve minor prophets. Beneath them, on the western end of the
substructure is a noble statue of St. Sebald, who holds in his hand a
model of the church called after his name, and at the corresponding
place on the other end that statue of Peter Vischer himself, to which we
have already referred. Here, in large Latin characters we find the
inscription ‘Ein Anfang durch mich’ (a beginning by me) ‘Peter Vischer,
1508,’ and under St. Sebald the record of the completion of the base:
‘Gemacht von Peter Vischer, 1509.’



“On the base, at the foot of the four corner pillars, are the nude
figures of Nimrod with his bow and quiver, of Samson with the
slaughtered lion and the jawbone of an ass, Perseus with sword and
shield and in company of a mouse, Hercules with a club. Between these
heroes, in the centre of either side, are female figures emblematic of
the four cardinal virtues of mankind—Strength in a coat of mail with a
lion, Temperance with a bowl and globe. Wisdom with mirror and book, and
Justice with sword and scales. In all, besides the apostles and
prophets, there are seventy-two figures, in the presentation of which
amidst flowers and foliage the joyful, exuberant fancy of the artist and
his helpers has run riot. But there is, as I have suggested, a
well-conceived plan and unity throughout; an intimate correspondence, in
spite of the variety of groups, between the parts and the whole.
Everything is subordinated to the two central ideas which animate the
whole, and everything executed with a delicacy of feeling and a fineness
of finish little short of marvellous. The whole fabric rests upon twelve
large snails, with four dolphins at the corners.”

The bronze is, apparently, just as it left the mould. It has not been
filed and chiselled and smoothed and polished after the modern fashion,
and it has therefore lost nothing of the vigour and character of the
lines as they were originally shaped by the craftsmen’s hands. The very
roughnesses are commendable.

When Peter Vischer received the commission to produce this great
memorial of the municipal Saint the lines on which it should be wrought
were marked out for him by the traditions of his house and of his art.
The sarcophagus should be placed, according to his old design, upon a
base adorned with reliefs illustrating the miracles of the Saint;
figures of apostles should guard the coffin, and above it should rise a
canopy of lofty fretted Gothic pinnacles. Now this original design was
for a shrine intended to be over forty feet high, and something after
the manner of Adam Krafft’s Pyx. On this, or rather on some slight
modification of it, he began to work, and, as he went on, introduced
very important alterations under the influence of his sons’ new
knowledge. It is due to this process of modification probably that we
have to pass the criticism on the Sebaldusgrab that the parts are
greater than the whole, though the beauty and finish of the details are
so great that, once we are within range of their charm, we forget and
forgive any fault in the proportionment of the complete structure.
Beginning with the base, most likely at that end where the statue of
himself in his leather apron is to be seen, and where the inscription
“Beginning by me, 1508,” may be read, Vischer made such good progress
with the work that by 1512 Cocleus could write of it in his
_Cosmographia_ with amiable exaggeration;—“Quis vero solertior Petro
Fischer in celandis fundendisque metallis? Vidi ego totum sacellum ab eo
in aes fusum imaginibusque celatum, in quo multi sane mortales stare
missamque audire poterunt.” (What more skilful founder is there than
Peter Vischer? I myself have seen a whole chapel cast by him in bronze
and covered with statues, wherein indeed many people will be able to
stand and hear mass.) The chapel then and many of the figures were
completed or nearly completed by that date.

The alteration of the design to that of this single separate chapel
containing the sarcophagus was doubtless due to the journey of Peter
Vischer the younger and the examples of Italian tombs, which he had
observed, for instance, in the Certosa and in the Cathedral of Pavia. In
every part we notice how the Gothic skeleton has been modified or has
been clothed with all kinds of decoration in the Renaissance style. The
Gothic pillars, indeed, are retained, and the pilasters; but these are
richly ornamented. Cupolas, too, have taken the place of the fretted
Gothic pinnacles, but yet in the details of their construction, in their
flying buttresses and arched openings, the original Gothic design has
clearly been used and fused with the new Renaissance models, yielding
that architectural effect of mixed Romanesque and Gothic styles, of
which Cologne and Mainz afford, among many, the most obvious examples.

The figures of beasts and children found in the original are retained
but changed. They are executed in the full spirit of the Renaissance,
looking back to mythology. We have Cupids now and Genii, Tritons and
Sirens, and in place of the Gothic crab the Renaissance dolphin. The
ornamentation of the candlesticks is completely Italianate. The slender,
graceful columns which hold the candelabra are decorated now with a
continually varying luxuriance of ornament, recalling in form a hundred
details at Como, at Bergamo and at the Certosa of Pavia. In the case of
the mythological figures there is no caricature; there are none of the
monstrosities in which German art usually revelled when dealing with
such subjects. The artist has gone straight to Italy, to the source of
the new springs of knowledge and of the new-born delight in the gods of
old days. There is, too, an inexhaustible fecundity of pose. Scarce one
beast or child is the same. You might almost suppose that the artist had
aimed at giving us an encyclopædia of Nature, showing that all-embracing
enthusiasm which rendered so many of the great minds of the Renaissance
eager to excel in every department of knowledge. Each minutest figure
also displays a masterly grip of anatomy, proportion and perspective,
and here we clearly recognize the student of Leonardo da Vinci’s
drawings. The figures of the four heroes and of the lute-player are of
the school of Leonardo in pose, in modelling and in drapery, whilst the
Marsyas may be traced, as Seeger thinks, to a woodcut in a Venetian
edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (1497).

The soft, transparent handling of the drapery is, generally speaking,
wholly un-German. For, until the epoch roughly marked for us by the
great _Adam and Eve_ of Albert Dürer, the study of the nude played but a
small part in the labours of the German artists, and they did not trust
themselves to use drapery as a means of revealing the form beneath.
Their study of anatomy had so far been concentrated upon heads and hands
and feet, and they treated drapery with exceeding care both as an aim
and object in itself, and, more than a little, as a useful screen for
defective bodies. But they were beginning to appreciate now the
endeavours of a Jacopo de’ Barbari to reveal the nude form through the
drapery of his figures. And to achieve this end Vischer, like Dürer, had
realised that a study of anatomy and the careful drawing of the contours
of the body are necessary. In some cases the drapery of the female
figures, as, for instance, of those in the relief which illustrates the
miracle of the “Icicles,” directly suggests the manner of Barbari, but
in the miracle of the “Healing of the Blind Man” the artist has modelled
his work on the antique. Thus he has taken the further step of the
Italians who, after struggling to reproduce the perfections of the human
body, and recognizing how far short of classic art they fell, had turned
to regenerate the antique, and so gave rise to the true Renaissance
which is the new birth of the old.

Between one pair of the four reliefs dealing with the miracles of St.
Sebald and the other there is so marked a difference in manner and style
that I do not think we can be far wrong if we attribute, with Seeger,
that of the “Icicles” and the “Healing of the Blind Man” to Peter
Vischer the younger, and the others, especially and certainly that of
the “Punishment of the Unbeliever” to his father. The particular point
which strikes one as most admirable, and which is in greater or less
degree common to all of them, is the simplicity of the grouping and the
avoidance of that sin of overcrowding which beset so many artists of the
day. (Ill. 10 and 11.)

The miracles of St. Sebald which were chosen as subjects for these
reliefs are, briefly, the following. St. Sebald was the son of a Danish
king who had renounced the things of this world in favour of the chaste
and solitary life of a hermit. He afterwards made his way to Rome and
was sent forth thence by Pope Gregory the Second to preach the Gospel in
Germany. On his way he abode for a while at Vicenza, and there one day
he received a visitor for whom he ordered his disciple Dionis to bring
the pitcher of wine. Dionis hesitated, for he had allowed himself to
partake of the wine the night before, and he feared detection. But when
the order was repeated he went to fetch the pitcher, and behold, he
found it filled again to the brim.

The fame of the hermit spread abroad. From far and near, even from Milan
and Pavia, people flocked to hear from his lips the wonderful works of
God. But amongst those who came, came also an unbeliever, who scoffed
and blasphemed at the prophet and his message. Then Sebald prayed to God
that a sign might be given to prove his doctrine true, and immediately,
in the sight of all, the earth opened and the scoffer sank up to his
neck. Then the hermit prayed with a loud voice and interceded for him,
so that he was delivered, and he and many of the unbelievers embraced
the true faith. (Ill. 10.)

Sebald now left Italy and came at last to Nuremberg. He settled there in
the forest in the heart of the Franconian people, teaching them the word
of God and working miracles. On one occasion we are told he sought
shelter in the hut of a poor and churlish waggoner. It was winter: the
snow lay on the ground and the wind howled over the frozen marshes of
the Pegnitz. But the signs of charity did not shine brightly in the
host. Sebald called upon the man’s wife to bring more wood for the fire
so that he might warm his body, for he was chilled to the bone. But
though he repeated his request the niggard host forbade his wife to
obey. At length the saint cried out to her to bring the cluster of
icicles which hung from the roof and to put them on the fire if she
could not or would not bring the faggots.

The woman, pitying him, obeyed, and, in answer to the prayer of Sebald,
a flame shot up from the ice as from a firebrand and the whole bundle
was quickly ablaze.



When he saw this miracle the chilly host gave the hermit a warmer
welcome, and, to make amends for his former lack of hospitality, he
sallied forth to buy some fish in the market, contrary to the
regulations of the authorities. Being caught he was blinded, but the
holy hermit quickly restored to him the light of his eyes. (Ill. 11.)

So potent was the saint on whose shrine Peter Vischer was now at
work—that shrine to which, says Eobanus Hessus in his poem on Nuremberg,
no words can do justice and with which not even the greatest artists of
antiquity could have found fault;

            “Musa nec ulla queat tanto satis esse labori
             Nec verbis æquare opus immortale futurum;
             Quod neque Praxiteles, nec Myron nec Polycletus,
             Nemo Cares, nemo Scopas reprehendere posset.”



Now in the style of the reliefs which record the miracles we have
related, there is a marked divergence. Even the figure of the saint is
not uniformly conceived. We may conclude that we have on the one hand in
the “Punishment of the Unbeliever” undoubtedly the work of Peter
Vischer, the father. The craftsman was still clearly under the influence
of Adam Krafft and his school. For the personages of the little drama
which he wished to depict are presented to us as simple Nurembergers of
every day, and they are portrayed in a spirit of very homely realism.
Similar in style is the treatment of the miracle of the “Wine in the
Bowl,” where, equally with the above, the handling of the drapery is
thoroughly in the manner of the old Founder. On the other hand, the
relief which represents the “Miracle of the Icicles” is probably by
Peter Vischer the younger. For the modelling of the female figures there
distinctly reminds us, in drapery and in pose of the head and body, of
the Eurydice in his “Orpheus and Eurydice,” of the Vita in his
inkstands, and of the flute-player in the Sebaldusgrab. And by him,
also, is the “Healing of the Blind Man,” which is by far the finest of
the four reliefs. There is a movement in the whole and a unity in the
composition quite admirable, whilst the cautious, tentative gait of the
suddenly blinded man, not yet accustomed to the eternal darkness which
has come upon him, is indicated with a delicacy and sureness of touch
which proclaim a truly great and original artist. In the treatment of
the drapery on the moving figures we read the result of his study of the
antique. It is used to indicate and to explain the movement that is
taking place. And very noticeable is the seizing of the dramatic moment,
which is a conspicuous characteristic of the artist of “Orpheus and

In the portrayal of the apostles on the Sebaldusgrab Vischer and his
sons have attained the perfect expression of the ideal after which the
father had vainly striven in the monument at Magdeburg.


12. ST. PAUL]

In every way the advance made by the artist since he wrought that early
masterpiece is noticeable. The apostles here, unlike those in the
original design, and unlike, also, those on the tomb of Archbishop
Ernst, are not standing gazing straight in front of them in holy,
unconscious calm, but a certain relation has been established between
some of the pairs. That relation has not been established indeed with
mathematical precision, but with an art that succeeds in producing the
effect of nature. Take, for instance, the figures of Paul and Philip,
which are represented in the act of earnest conversation, or those of
Thomas and James the Less, which suggest men who are busy with their own
thoughts, but are composed so as to be in complete harmony with those of
the neighbouring apostles. The figures are skilfully arranged also so as
to produce a harmonious contrast with the twelve patriarchs above them.

We noticed in the apostles of the Magdeburg monument a distinct lack of
variety in pose, especially of arms and hands. The figures there were
stiff and lacking in grace, but these are full of fire and movement. The
figures there were over short. They were the types of Adam Krafft and
the Nuremberg school. But these, in greater or less degree, are
Renaissance types of comparative litheness, and inspired with life and

In breaking away from the traditions of Veit Stoss and Adam Krafft the
artist has advanced to a notable extent beyond them, and even beyond
Dürer in most cases, in the quality of spirituality which he has learnt
to impress upon his work.

[Illustration: STEIN PHOTO.] [ST. SEBALD’S CHURCH, Nürnberg


A similar development is noticeable in the drapery. The apostles at
Magdeburg are clad in the heavy, wooden garments of the old school,
whilst those of the Sebaldusgrab are draped in fine folds which fall in
soft curves over bodies anatomically correct.

We cannot, perhaps, determine with certainty which of the Vischer family
is responsible for each figure. But where we find one recalling in pose
and drapery the motives of the Magdeburg tomb we may safely attribute it
to the father. He was fond of horizontal folds and much affected that
motive of a mantle which consists in its being thrown over and falling
from the right arm and resting on the left shoulder. His handling of
hair is also distinctive. He preferred to provide his statues with
masses of luxuriant hair and beard and moustaches. His noblest
achievement is the figure of the Apostle Andrew.

To Peter Vischer the younger we may attribute the representation of his
patron saint. This, as Dr. Seeger has pointed out, is based on a
recollection or a drawing of the figure of that Apostle on the façade of
the Certosa di Pavia, modified by the individuality of the present
artist and adapted to the exigencies of this shrine. It is an absolutely
different type from that on the Magdeburg tomb, which had more in common
with the St. Peter of old Hermann on the Font at Wittenberg. There the
head, to take one point, is larger and adorned with a heavy mass of
luxuriant curling hair and beard. But the head of this Apostle is small
and fine; the eyes deep set, the neck sinewy. The loose and admirable
fall of the drapery is in the new manner. And with that nervous grasp of
the key, that searching gaze, those wrinkled and contracted brows, the
youthful craftsman has nobly represented his patron Saint, Peter the
bald, intellectual Keeper of the Gates of Heaven.

Completely different again in type and treatment is the figure of the
Apostle Bartholomew. (Ill. 13.) It smacks of Rome, and Roman too is
Simon. These, we should naturally hazard, were the work of Hermann the
eldest son, after his return from his _Rom-reise_ in 1516. And in this
theory we are confirmed by a passage in a manuscript in the Nuremberg
Town Library, which tells us that “Hermann Vischer alone made the
Apostle Bartholomew and several tabernacles,” as, for instance, without
doubt that Roman triumphal arch above the statue of St. Paul.


                               CHAPTER V

                         THE TOMB OF MAXIMILIAN

ART has been always, more or less, dependent upon the patronage of the
rich and great. And the warm interest evinced in the Arts and Crafts by
the Emperor Maximilian, the “last of the Knights,” did not a little to
provoke that outburst of artistic excellence which distinguished
Nuremberg at this time; where the names of Dürer, Vischer, and Krafft
shine out pre-eminent among many lesser lights. Maximilian was in many
ways the epitome of his age, the personification of the Renaissance.
Soldier and man of letters, administrator and theologian, athlete and
scholar, he yet found time to encourage artists and to devise and
commission innumerable works of art. He was, in fact, as Albert Dürer
found to his cost, more ready to give commissions than to pay for them
when performed. At Nuremberg he frequently employed Veit Stoss; he had a
considerable share in the production of the _Weisskunig_ and the
_Theuerdank_, a poem describing allegorically the private life and
ideals of the Emperor, which was polished and completed by his secretary
Melchior Pfinzing, Provost of St. Sebald’s Church. He conceived and
commissioned amongst other works Albert Dürer’s colossal wood-engraving,
the _Triumphal Arch_, which was designed, as usual, for the
glorification of this greatest of princes. Wherever he happened to be,
at Augsburg, Innsbruck, Nuremberg or Prague, in the course of the
conduct of one of his innumerable wars or of a tourney, whilst
administering justice, repressing the chivalrous brigandage of petty
lords or bleeding a Bamberg banker, his eye was always quick to perceive
the merit of any craftsman. Chroniclers repeatedly record his morning
rides in a town, and describe the visits which he would pay to the
houses of half-a-dozen craftsmen in a day, buying and ordering costly
works of art.

He came to visit also the home of that already celebrated yet always
modest and unpretending Founder, Peter Vischer, “to whom Princes
esteemed it an honour to do honour.” Maximilian had before now shown a
practical interest in bronze work, and had incidentally displayed his
appreciation of Vischer. For when he was starting a Foundry at Mühlau,
near Innsbruck, he had had it in contemplation to appoint the
“geschickligisten und berichtisten Rotschmied”—the most skilful and
famous coppersmith of Nuremberg—Peter Vischer to wit, to superintend the
establishment thereof. But Peter had declined the honour, and Stefan
Godl from Nuremberg was appointed in his stead.

Now the teeming brain of Maximilian—for whom no plan for his own
exaltation was too grandiose, and no project for the advancement of his
fame was to be despised—conceived the idea of building for himself a
lordly tomb, wherein, after he had been gathered to his forefathers, he
might rest, surrounded by the forms of those who had gone to his making.
To-day twenty-eight bronze over life-size figures of ancient heroes
stand round and guard the Emperor’s cenotaph at Innsbruck. Two of these
are most markedly superior to the rest as works of art; and these two
come from the foundry of Peter Vischer. They are the statues of King
Arthur, the very perfect flower of chivalry (Ill. 15), and of Theodoric,
King of the Goths. (Ill. 14.) Documentary evidence reveals the fact that
in the year 1513 Peter Vischer the elder received from the imperial
chest one thousand florins for “zwei grosse messene Pillder” (two large
bronze figures). But apart from the teaching of the archives their
resemblance to the other works of this foundry leaves no doubt as to the
origin of these noble figures. In feeling, in poetry, in grace, as well
as in the minute and exquisite finish of the detail, they are indeed
worthy of the blossom period of the house of Vischer. Both figures are
eloquent of the artist’s joy in production, and not of the tradesman’s
mere delight in a commission. Not that the Vischers were at all to seek
on the business side of their craft; they worked, as the modern dealer
would express it, with punctuality, cheapness and despatch. In artistic
excellence, as well as in these other important qualities, they far
surpassed the labours of the Mühlau Founder, who had secured the
commission for all, or almost all, the other statues for the tomb of
Maximilian. The Emperor himself, it is recorded, recognized this fact;
for he remarked (April 16, 1513), “Für die 3,000 fl. auf welche das bis
dahin gegossene einzige Bild Sesselschreiber zu stehen komme, in
Nürnberg sechs Bilder hätte giessen lassen können.” (For the 3,000
florins to which the one statue hitherto cast by Sesselschreiber
amounts, six statues might have been cast at Nuremberg.)





Both the statues that hail from Nuremberg are extremely beautiful, but
they are noticeably different in style. They differ so much in that
unconscious revelation of the artist’s hand, which distinguishes every
piece of human work, that I am strongly inclined to accept Dr. Seeger’s
view, that whilst Peter Vischer the father wrought Theodoric, King of
the Goths, it is to his son and namesake, Peter Vischer the younger,
that we owe the statue of King Arthur. Theodoric leans on his sword and
shield in a pose that is beautiful and imaginative, it is true, but in
the execution slightly forced. This figure is weaker and more
conventional, less full of life and vigour than that of the King Arthur.
Seeger fancies that we can trace in it something of the uneasiness felt
by the old craftsman when essaying a new style, and that there is
discernible here the slight hesitation and misgiving of one who fears
that he is attempting what is beyond his strength.

Certainly we get no such impression when we turn to the splendid
strenuous figure of Arthur. This _is_ the Arthur whom we know, in all
the splendour of his manhood, bold and free, the noblest flower of
chivalry; Arthur, the very perfect knight, pure, serene in the
confidence of his own faith and right, brooking no challenge and no
wrong. Here Beauty and Strength have kissed one another; and the spring
of this youthful figure, nimble and light of limb, betrays itself even
through the hard, straight lines of the heavy, rich armour it bears. It
is the type of the noble Teuton of all time, drawn by an artist who had
studied the nude and Italian plastic art, and was full of the vigour and
confidence of his own youthful ideal. For this bronze surely conveys
that conviction of agility for a moment at rest, which you may derive
from the sight of a Greek marble or the lithe figure of a modern
athlete. And is there not also here something “of that marvellous
gesture of moving himself within the” bronze, which Vasari so finely
attributed to the St. George of Donatello?

There may perhaps be in this figure a touch of exaggeration which is so
splendidly absent from that supreme triumph of the Renaissance; it is
certainly more virile and it may be more brutal; but it is enough to
claim for Vischer that in this noble creation he challenges comparison
with “the Master of those who know.” Doubtless, indeed, both his Arthur
and his St. Peter of the Sebaldusgrab owe not a little to the
masterpiece of Donatello.

But the beauty of the figure and pose of King Arthur is not all. It need
not blind us to the exquisite ornamentation of the armour, which, unlike
that of Theodoric, is rich with the richness of the North Italian
Renaissance. The dragons thereon are full of life, and the chain of the
Order of the Golden Fleece, and all the other minute details of the
decoration, are as notable for the fecundity of invention as for the
skill in execution which they display.

These two heroic figures were completed by the Vischer family as early
as the year 1513, but they did not reach the place for which they had
been destined till some ten years later, for the Emperor kept them at
Augsburg. And even after they had arrived at Innsbruck and been set in
position there, they were not left in peace. A great danger threatened
Theodoric in 1548, for it did not square with Charles V.’s conception of
the order of the Universe that the king of the Goths should be found
among the ancestors of the Hapsburgs. He therefore gave orders that his
statue should either be recast or at least be renamed. Fortunately
neither of these things got itself done.


                               CHAPTER VI


THE absorbing interest and labour of the Sebaldusgrab did not by any
means exhaust the energies and enterprise of Vischer and his house. That
want of money, which has been the source of innumerable works of art,
combined with the artist’s restless striving after new forms of
self-expression, prompted the production of many another bronze during
this span of years.

We have seen that the heroic figures of Arthur and Theodoric were
completed in the year 1513, and to that year also belongs the original
design for the Rathaus Railing, the chequered and disastrous history of
which we shall describe later. Now it was proposed to found a monument
to perpetuate the memory of a famous Doctor of Law (“suæ ætatis
Jureconsultorum facile princeps,” says the inscription), one Henning
Goden, Provost of Wittenberg and Prebendary of Erfurt. Peter Vischer was
entrusted with its execution, and it was erected in 1521 at Erfurt and,
in duplicate, at Wittenberg. The subject chosen was that of the crowning
of Mary. The Madonna is represented kneeling on the clouds; her hands
are folded in prayer and her rich tresses float round a nobly beautiful
head and stream over her shoulders. She is in the act of being crowned
by God the Father and God the Son, who sit enthroned on either side of
the Virgin Mother. The Holy Dove hovers above her. Two characteristic
but excessively plump little angels playing musical instruments in
either corner fill up the spaces left by the curving scroll work above,
whilst at the feet of the Madonna the Prebendary kneels, supported by
his patron saint, St. John, whose hand is laid upon his shoulder. Clouds
and angels complete the foreground.

Of this tomb-plate Lübke writes:

    “The simple beauty of the composition, the broad, free style of the
    drapery, the noble loftiness in form and expression of the heads,
    especially of God the Father, place this work in the ranks of the
    noblest creations of German art at that date.”

The memorial certainly does bear unmistakable signs of Peter Vischer’s
handiwork, but it is impossible not to feel that in many points, as for
instance the articulation of the hands and feet, and the anatomy of the
body in the case of the figure of Christ, it is decidedly inferior to
the best work of the house of Vischer. Compare it with the beautiful
tomb-plate of Frau Margarete Tucher in the cathedral at Regensburg
(Ratisbon) and the difference in manner and technique at once leaps to
the eye. Yet this memorial also was made in 1521. (Ill. 16.) It can
hardly have been designed by the same hand, although this, like the
monument of the Eissen family in the Church of St. Ægidius at Nuremberg,
to which it is near akin, certainly came from the Vischer foundry, for
it bears the mark and signature


Normberge. 1521. But the trade-mark between these two initials is
substantially the same as that found on the inkstand of 1525. We have no
choice, then, but to follow Bergau and Seeger and to attribute these two
former works, in great part at any rate, to Peter Vischer the younger.
And, indeed, they exhibit to a high degree all those qualities which are
most characteristic of his work. There is a rhythmic balance in the
composition which at once recalls the reliefs on the Sebaldusgrab
attributed to him. Here again the artist has seized a fine moment in the
dramatic incident he wishes to portray. He has harmonized and
subordinated all the characters of that pathetic scene when Christ met
the sisters of the dead Lazarus. The noble figure of the Christ who has
stepped forward to listen to and to grant the prayer of the bereaved
sister forms the centre of a picture whereof the disputing Apostles and
the sorrowing women are the necessary complement. With regard to the
Apostles themselves it only requires a moment’s comparison to
demonstrate that their figures are mere modifications of those on the
Sebaldusgrab, and they may have been wrought by any member of the
family, therefore, or even by an assistant. For the craftsmen of those
days were obliged to take a frankly business view of their handiwork.
Michel Wolgemut left much in each of his pictures to be done by his
pupils and assistants, and Dürer, too, following his master’s custom
was, in too many cases, forced to adopt the same practice. For a man
must live, and Dürer found that his careful and elaborate style of
painting was simply beggaring him. The commissions received by the
Vischer family were necessarily executed after something of the same
spirit. The design would be sketched out by the old man or one of his
sons, or, again, by him and his sons in part and in consultation. Then
whilst the more skilful of them wrought the more important figures and
details of the piece, the subsidiary details and characters would be
left to the ’prentice hands. In the case of the Tucher monument the task
of supplying the Apostle figures must have fallen to one of these, and
he would naturally base them upon the famous masterpieces of the House
in that line. But in the noble figure of the Christ, in the poise and
the moulding of the head, and in that spiritual searching gaze with
which the Saviour seems to be looking into the very heart of Lazarus’
sister and gauging her faith, we cannot fail to recognize the style of
the creator of the St. Peter and St. John of the Sebaldusgrab, and of
the author of the Orpheus of the Plaquettes. Equally true is this of the
modelling, pose and drapery of the female figures, to which particular
attention should be given.


(Tucher Monument)]

The background, too, is the work of a Master, and the gradual deepening
of the relief is worked out with a skill and confidence which argues
that it is the work of a Master who has made a considerable study of
perspective. The treatment of perspective and the very low relief are
indeed entirely in the manner of the early Florentine Renaissance. The
same influence is discernible in the style of the architecture in the
background. It is interesting to note the favourite device of a Perugino
or a Raphael reproduced in the cupola-crowned building which serves as a
finish to the picture. It was not for nothing that Hermann Vischer had
made his journey south some years before, and returned laden with those
sketches which “delighted his old father and provided practice for his
brothers.” The deviser of this temple and of those framing pillars with
their Corinthian capitals has learnt many a lesson recently from his
brother’s work.

In the monument of the Eissen family which is placed in the Church of
St. Ægidius at Nuremberg, and belongs to the year 1522, we have a work
which must be by the same hand as that which designed the Tucher
memorial. The similarity of the signature and of the style is convincing
testimony. The subject is the favourite Pietà, the lamentation over
Christ’s body after the descent from the Cross. Here we have the figures
of the faithful women, and of John the beloved disciple, and Joseph of
Arimathea mourning, whilst Nicodemus is reverently wrapping the corpse
in the cerements of the grave. Once more in composing his subject the
artist has seized the dramatic moment. The eyes of all these faithful
followers are fixed upon the dead body of their Lord. Their gestures and
their expressions betoken the intense grief of each, and each has his
place and share in the divine tragedy. The unity thus attained is
heightened by the dramatic contrast of the one person, the servant, who
stares at the body, unaffected save by vulgar curiosity, all unaware
that she is in the presence of the world’s most grievous and most
wonderful mystery. (Ill. 17.)

The figure and head of Joseph of Arimathea are nobly beautiful, and,
like the drapery, remind us of the St. Peter on the Sebaldusgrab. His
outstretched hands are eloquent of sorrow and, in common with those of
the women who kneel behind their Master, they speak to a study of
Italian art and of the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci.


17. BEWEINUNG CHRISTI (Eissen Memorial)]

The Christ in this monument resembles in the treatment of the eyes, and
the hair and in the moulding of the head that of the Tucher memorial of
the previous year. The body is foreshortened, and the foreshortening
cannot be termed altogether successful. But successful to an
extraordinary degree is the spiritual, sympathetic expression of the
countenance, and indicative of a poet’s sympathy with sorrow, and his
power of showing it, is that down-hanging arm, masterly executed in
strong relief.

The young Peter Vischer had known much sorrow, and was acquainted with
grief beyond his years. The bereavements of his father, the loss of his
brother’s wife, and afterwards of his brother Hermann himself, must have
touched his poet’s heart and deepened his powers of sympathetic
imagination. The strong stirring of religious emotion which was at this
time abroad in the land would tend still further to chasten the
exuberant joyousness of his youthful spirit, and to bring him into touch
with the more serious aspects of life. Neudörffer has recorded for us
his love of the poetical side of life; his own Aquarelle on the
_Reformation_ proves the seriousness of his interest in the great
religious question of the day, and the evidence of the development of
his powers in his own undoubted works of art is potent to demonstrate
his enthusiasm for learning. Remembering these facts let us compare for
a moment with the sisters of Lazarus in the Tucher memorial, that superb
work of art in the Germanic Museum at Nuremberg, which is known as the
“Praying Madonna.” (Ill. 18.)

[Illustration: [MUSEUM, NÜRNBERG


“No second glance is required to assure us that we have here not only
the _chef-d’œuvre_ of Nuremberg carving, but also one of the works of
art of all time. And yet the name of the master is unknown, and the very
date of the work is a matter of dispute. Clearly the beautiful female
figure of this sorrowing Mary, this praying Madonna as she is called
(_trauende, betende Maria_) once formed one of a group, and stood facing
St. John at the foot of the Cross, gazing upwards in that bitter grief
which is beyond the expression and abandonment of tears. Who can that
artist have been who could select that pose of the head, that poise of
the limbs, who could carve those robes, which, in purity and flow have
never been surpassed in German art, and who could express in the
suppliant hands such poignant emotion? _Man weiss nicht!_ And whose
touch was so delicate that with his chisel he could stamp on the
upturned face those mingled feelings of sorrow so supreme, yearning so
intense, love so human, hope so divine? For all this we can read there
still, even through the grey-green coat of paint which certainly had no
place in the original intentions of the artist. _Man weiss nicht!_ But
this much one may hazard—that it was some German artist, touched by the
spirit of the Italian Renaissance till he rose to heights of artistic
performance never elsewhere attained by him, and scarcely ever
approached by his fellows.”

So I have written elsewhere of this beautiful gem of German art. But is
it so certain that the author is unknown? The temptation to attribute it
to Peter Vischer the younger is extremely strong, especially when we
compare it with the figure of Lazarus’ sister.

It has, at different times and by various writers, been attributed to
almost every conceivable German craftsman—to Adam Krafft, of course, and
to Veit Stoss in turn, amongst others. But the work of none of these
artists approaches the style, the beauty, the refinement of this figure,
and is, in many essentials, distinctly opposed thereto. But if it is not
by these, can it be by Peter Vischer’s great son? The theory, it must be
confessed, is more probable than provable. We can only say that in his
greatest moment he might have done this thing, in making a model for a
projected bronze figure. For the creator of the King Arthur at Innsbruck
must be conceded to be potentially capable of any masterpiece in this
kind, and the Madonna is not beyond the limits of his power. The
slenderness of the figure is a point in favour of this authorship, and
not, as has been argued, in opposition to it, for there is noticeable in
the female figures of the young Peter Vischer, an increasing tendency to
discard the squat Bavarian type and to adopt the slenderer proportions
of the Italian model. Observe, further, that in the fall of the drapery
of the Madonna there is nothing of severity, nothing of distortion as in
other carvings of the same period by other hands. Rather do the sweep
and movement of it recall that of certain of the apostles of the
Sebaldusgrab and the arrangement of it as regards the feet is similar.
It may, in fact, be stated, without fear of contradiction, that the
serpentine sweep and the arrangement of the drapery, drawn tight over
the right leg and covering, as it does, the thrust out foot below, is a
motive practically confined in the German art of that period to the
works of the House of Vischer. It reminds us of the Apostles in St.
Sebald’s church: it is repeated emphatically in the fall of the drapery
of the sisters of Lazarus.

And surely the pose of the sister of Lazarus on the left hand and that
of the Madonna is substantially the same, although, in the case of the
latter, it has been refined and improved. That pose of the bent leg is
one of the most beautiful and eloquent of all the positions of the human
body.[6] But the similarity does not end there.

Footnote 6:

  That it was a favourite one with the young Vischer may be seen by
  comparing the female figures of the Inkstands, pp. 96, 97.

The right leg, the left arm and hand resting on the hip, the poise of
the head and the style of dress are all in the same manner. Nothing,
again, is more characteristic of an artist than his treatment of hands.
And with those expressive hands of the Madonna we may confidently
compare the hands of the woman who is behind the body of Christ or the
hands of Joseph in the Pietà of 1522, or the hands of St. John in the
Sebaldusgrab, or of the female figure on the inkstand of 1525.
Vischer-like also is the pure, refined expression and type of face,
which recalls on the one hand the yearning gaze of the aforesaid figure,
and the soulful look of Eurydice on the other.

But enough has been said. Peter Vischer the younger was, we think,
capable of producing such a work of art as the Madonna, and of no one
else whose work we know can we say as much. Yet such a masterpiece is
not thrown off by an unpractised hand. There is good reason, then, for
accepting the theory suggested by the remarks of Herr von Bezold[7] and
crediting our craftsman with the glory of this great work. In the next
chapter we shall deal with some minor, undisputed works of his, a
careful study of which will certainly, in our opinion, not tend to
invalidate the claim now advanced on his behalf.

Footnote 7:

  “Anzeiger des Germanischen Nationalmuseums.” No. 2. Nuremberg, 1896.


                              CHAPTER VII


SOME time during the year which followed the completion of the Eissen
Monument, Cardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg, Archbishop of Magdeburg and
Mainz, it is recorded, sent to the old bronze-founder of Nuremberg
requesting him to let his son come to him to confer about certain
orders. Whether the young Peter went or not we do not know, nor is it
certain whether it was his tomb which the Cardinal had previously
ordered, or the great State Seal of the Archbishop, which is with some
probability ascribed to this craftsman, that was in debate. The
tomb-plate of the Cardinal was finished by 1525, and is now in the
Parish Church of Aschaffenburg, though it is at Mainz that the Cardinal
was buried. For the fashion in tombs was changing, and, in order to be
in the fashion, the Cardinal subsequently ordered a new tomb of red
marble beneath which he now lies in the Cathedral of Mainz.

             “And I shall fill my slab of basalt there,
              And ’neath my tabernacle take my rest,
              With those nine columns round me, two and two,
              The odd one at my feet where Anselm stands;
              Peach-blossom marble all, the rare, the ripe
              As fresh-poured red wine of a mighty pulse....
                                           True peach,
              Rosy and flawless.”

So the German Cardinal shared the taste of Browning’s Roman Bishop. It
was a taste that spread rapidly from Italy about this time, and brought
in its train swift ruin to the industry of the bronze craftsmen. But the
day of disaster had not yet come, and meantime the young Peter Vischer
was busy with other works. He had not yet, however, succeeded in being
admitted as a meister of the Guild of Coppersmiths, and he took the
present opportunity of submitting the Cardinal’s tomb-plate as his
masterpiece. It was rejected for some obscure reason, just as, two years
later, his splendid memorial of Frederick the Wise was rejected. Both of
these pieces are signed “Opus M. Petri Fischers. Norimberge.” In face of
the fact that they were not accepted as masterpieces we cannot interpret
the letter M. in these inscriptions as the initial of _Magistri_
(master). It must stand rather for _Minoris_—“the work of Peter Fischer
the younger.”

The present memorial takes the form of a life-size character-study of a
mighty prince of the Church, and it is set in a Renaissance framework.
It is a noble and intense piece of work which has been spoilt by the
inscription tablet which covers the body.

Unlike his father, but like most other artists of his day, Peter Vischer
the younger, as we gather from Neudörffer’s mention of him, did not
confine himself to bronze work, but dabbled in various kindred arts. We
have a noticeable instance of this in the “Allegory on the Reformation”
(1524), an aquarelle now preserved at Weimar, which once roused the
enthusiasm of Goethe, and which reveals to us his political and
religious creed. In common with Hans Sachs, Albert Dürer, and Willibald
Pirkheimer, and the great majority of Nurembergers, Peter Vischer had
thrown in his lot with the Protestant Reformers, and boldly espoused the
cause of Luther. Luther he here represents as some hero of old story who
has destroyed the palace and upset the throne of the usurper, and
scattered the base crowd of his courtiers. The Pope and the mighty
princes of the Church have been put down from their seat and the horde
of their hateful minions—Pride, Luxury, and Avarice—flee away. In their
stead Faith, Hope, and Charity are about to enthrone Justice, whilst
Luther, the humble and unworldly, shows the straight path to Christ, who
descends from the clouds to save publicans and sinners. Rome’s might, it
is implied, is broken; the German people can at last, through Luther’s
act, hold direct communion with their Redeemer once more. Only a German
Emperor, so it must have seemed to the German enthusiasts of that time,
was wanting—no Spaniard like Charles V., with his brood of alien
courtiers—to continue the work of Luther and to fulfil the national
ideal. And perhaps, as Dr. Seeger suggests, Peter Vischer the younger
looked to Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, as the heaven-appointed
Kaiser—that Prince whose portrait he executed in so loving and masterly
a fashion two years later.

That love of allegory which is indicated by this drawing, and by the
artist’s addiction to poetry, was a taste he shared with Dürer and
Holbein the younger. It is further illustrated by the two inkstands
which come from his hand and, in a less degree, by the two plaquettes of
Orpheus and Eurydice we have now to consider. (Ill. 19 and 20.)



There are, indeed, four plaquettes on this subject in existence, all
undoubtedly by the same master. But three of these are practically
identical. The other, the earliest as it would appear, is in the
possession of M. Dreyfus of Paris. It was at one time attributed to
Jacopo de’ Barbari. But this, like the other plaquettes, bears Vischer’s
mark clearly enough—two fish lying back to back pierced through by a
nail or dagger, a device found also on the two inkstands. The two nude
figures of Orpheus and Eurydice do, however, undoubtedly owe very much
to the influence of Jacopo and Sansovino on the one hand, just as they
are related to the _Adam and Eve_ of Dürer on the other. In this earlier
version of the subject it is evident that the artist has been moved by
the above-mentioned influences to study the nude, but his study is not
yet complete. For the modelling of the Orpheus is not all that could be
desired, the legs of this figure in particular being awkward and
constrained. The Eurydice is more successful, and is less hard and
angular in treatment. But, as Lübke observed, the parallelism produced
by the presentation of the two forms in the act of turning lends a
distinct harshness to the composition. For all that there is one quality
present here which we have learnt to expect from this master. He has
seized the dramatic moment when, in Vergil’s words, “a sudden madness
took hold of the unwary lover,” and, “in his desire to behold her, he
turned his eyes” upon his half-regained Eurydice. But he could not hold
her safe “within the bond of one immortal look.” Just as she emerges
from the rocks of the underworld he yields to this desire and turns. And
as he turns and looks she stops and begins, under the constraint of the
inexorable law of Proserpine, to be drawn back to the shades whence she
came. Into her face there has come a look of sorrow and sad reproach,
whilst the movement of her hands and head and hair betoken the beginning
of that inevitable return. With the gesture of her left hand Eurydice
seems almost to utter the lines of Vergil:

     “Quis et me miseram et te perdidit, Orpheu, Quis tantus furor?
      Jamque vale—!”



The other version of this same subject to which Peter Vischer the
younger returned apparently in later years is still more finely
conceived and finely executed. The artist by this time, about the year
1520 let us say, had found his own soul and strength, and dared to be
more himself. The Berlin plaquette, which passed from the Nagler
collection to the Berlin Museum in 1835, is a great improvement upon the
old theme. The composition is in all respects much more rhythmical and
harmonious. Orpheus has been stepping quickly forward, playing as only
Orpheus with his lute could play, playing for life and love and
happiness, when suddenly the irresistible fear has come upon him that
she, his half-regained Eurydice, may not be following him. He has, under
the spur of that doubt, flung round his head quickly to reassure
himself. And she, even in that instant, begins to turn again towards
those shadowy regions whence his music and his faith, so far maintained,
had drawn her. Reproachful, sorrowing, in the agony of her love and her
despair, she gazes at him with one long last look. Here the artist has
turned the back-fluttering veil to a new and beautiful motive, and, like
the arrangement of the hair and the treatment of the feet, it has been
fittingly and carefully thought out to illustrate the two movements in
which the tragedy of the moment lies. The style is essentially
Italianate, and the device of the two spiked fish in the corner of the
plaquette proclaim the authorship of it. Orpheus, it will be noticed, is
not provided with the lute of antiquity but with a violin. This is not
surprising, for there was a general tendency both in Italian and German
art to furnish mythical personages with modern musical instruments.
Lübke reminds us, for instance, of the Apollo in Raphael’s “Parnassus.”

Of the other two plaquettes to which we have referred, one is to be
found in the Hamburg Museum, and the other was, till 1807, in St.
Blasien in the Black Forest, but is now preserved in the institution of
St. Paul in Carinthia. They are almost exactly the same with the Berlin
copy. But the latter has a poetical inscription above on the upper edge
which is absent from the example at St. Paul.

The inscription, which a recollection of the fondness evinced by the
young Peter for the study of poetry inclines us to attribute to his pen,
runs as follows:


which, being roughly interpreted, is to the effect that Orpheus, moving,
according to the Grecian fable, rocks and woods and rivers by his music,
came to the Infernal Regions, and there had quite won back Eurydice to
life if only he had observed the conditions of the king of Hades.

The Hamburg exemplar has this inscription also, with a few literal
variations, as, for instance, the mistake of _saxo_ instead of _saxa_,
and the correction of _adiisse_ (which is necessary for the scansion of
the line) in place of _adysse_.



A restless, uncontented care of doing better, which is the hall-mark of
genius, is proclaimed in the spirit of the craftsman who thus turned
again in his maturity to improve, and, if he could, to perfect the theme
he had attempted in his youth. The same spirit is evident in the similar
development of a theme which we find in the case of two bronze inkstands
formerly in the possession of the late H. Fortnum, Esq., of Stanmore,
and now forming part of the Fortnum Collection, bequeathed by him to the
Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. The first was picked up by the collector in
Paris; the second in Genoa. (Ill. 21 and 22.) They are mentioned by
Christoph von Murr[8] in 1778 as being in the collection of Dr.
Silberrad at Nuremberg, and are called by him “two admirable bas-reliefs
in bronze by Peter Vischer.” He further describes the second, that is,
the later, in the following terms: “It represents the reminding of the
future life. Near an urn, which might serve as an inkpot, stands a naked
female figure, about six inches high, pointing towards heaven with her
finger. In front of her a skull is lying, behind her a small shield and
dagger. A beautiful idea. Leaning against the urn is a tablet with the
inscription ‘VITAM NON MORTEM RECOGITA’” (Think on life not death).
“Under the base is the sign of the master, two fish with the initials
P.V. 1525.... Both pieces are still just as they came from the foundry,
and one must admire the accuracy and draughtsmanship which betray the
hand of one who is a master of his craft.”

Footnote 8:

  “Beschreibung der vornehmsten Merkwürdigkeiten,” quoted by Seeger.

Now if this female figure above mentioned is rightly interpreted as
reminding us of the life to come, the heavenly life, we may regard it as
a later and natural variation of the allegory of earthly life
represented by the other and earlier work. There the female figure of
Life is standing with her foot upon a skull, trampling on the emblem of
Death, and is pointing to herself, gazing self-centred, as who should
say, “Enjoy life, think on me and forget the death that cometh with the
morrow.” And on the tablet at her feet recurs the legend, “VITAM NON
MORTEM RECOGITA!” She is teaching the Renaissance love of beauty and the
lesson of the joy of existence and the frank delight in the things of
this earth. Probably, then, this work was executed shortly after the
young craftsman’s sojourn in Italy, when he was filled with the joy of
life and had been studying the nude with all the enthusiasm of the early
Renaissance school. A mixture of early Renaissance and of mediæval
elements is indeed distinctly observable. For the four-cornered vase and
its lid is eminently Gothic in character. On the four under sides of the
vase we find repeated the sign of the two fish which we have learnt to
associate with Peter Vischer the younger, and on the four upper sides
the same medallion of a man’s head. Medallions, we know, Peter Vischer
the younger turned his hand to frequently after his return from Italy.
The Medusa head with the winged helmet, and the club on the base, recall
the style of Sansovino, whilst the lion’s feet on which the vase rests,
and much of the decoration, correspond with details on the Sebaldusgrab.
The pose and the rhythmic movement of the female form are beautiful in
themselves, but the neck of the figure is too thick and the body
excessively short. When, ten or fifteen years later (1525), the
craftsman with a deepened sense of the mystery and sorrow of the world
returned to this theme, he read a new meaning into that favourite motto
of his, “Think on life not death,” and he also remedied in great part
the faults of his earlier effort. The figure, indeed, remains still too
short in comparison with its breadth, but it is far slimmer than the
other; the work is much more delicate, the lines less accentuated. The
artist is now a wiser, sadder, more spiritual man. With his feeling and
his knowledge of the world, his power also and his freedom have
increased and his mastery of modelling. The influence of his brother’s
journey to Rome and of the lessons he had brought home with him, is
evident everywhere, and not least in the striving after simplicity which
has induced him to leave the base plain and not richly ornamented as was
the former one.



The theme itself can indeed hardly be called a development but rather
the counterpart of the other. It is the answer of the spiritual side of
man to the earthly promptings of his nature. Think not on this life nor
on this death—but on the other life. In obedience to this point of view
the skull has been placed in a more prominent position. It is no longer
trampled on in the ecstasy of earthly enjoyment but recognized rather,
and triumphed over, by this upward-gazing Vita, upward pointing. Death,
it is meant, should be used, and welcomed almost, as the gate of
heavenly life. The many deaths that had darkened the doors of his own
house had, it is probable, sobered and saddened Peter Vischer’s great
son, and perhaps his own failing health or some premonition of an early
death, was by this time leading him to reflect in a chastened yet
hopeful spirit on the motto that he loved, and to interpret it afresh in
this allegorical wise: “Vitam non Mortem Recogita.” It was the motto
inscribed upon his grave in St. Rochus Church when he died but three
years later, and was laid to rest by his aged father.


                              CHAPTER VIII


BUT the work of Peter Vischer the younger was not yet done. It remained,
indeed, for him to perform some of his greatest achievements. Certain
documents quoted by Baader[9] show that it was he who, in the beginning
of the year 1527, completed the monument to the Elector Frederick the
Wise at Wittenberg, of which Lübke writes that it is “a classic work and
through it the German art of that period is worthy to take rank with the
Italian.” The life-size figure of the great Elector stands in strong
relief upon a bronze plate within a frame of Corinthian pillars, outside
which, on either side, the sixteen coats of arms of the ancestors of the
Prince’s house are recorded, whilst his own arms form the central point
of the arch above his head. Above the latter coat-of-arms two sturdy
angels, forming a central headpiece, hold a laurel wreath, and therewith
the Elector’s favourite text inscribed in Latin: “The word of the Lord
endureth for ever.” The base on which the feet rest is richly decorated
with forms of sea monsters and sporting children in the craftsman’s most
joyous and luxuriant manner. Frederick himself is draped boldly in the
broad sweep of the Electoral cloak, and in a cape of rich ermine. Of
ermine, too, is the Elector’s hat, which rests upon a noble brow. But
even beneath those heavy robes the vigour and spring of the man’s
energetic form make themselves felt, nor can the gloved hands disguise
the strength of his grasp upon the Sword of the Realm, which he holds
aslant his shoulder. And the face is full of life and fire, quick with
the keen gaze of a leader of men, and eloquently expressive of
determination and strenuous endeavour. This is, without doubt, a noble
portrait of princely faith and manly strength. “One can imagine,” says
Lübke, “no more beautiful picture of strength, nobility and immovable
Christian trust in God.” What then must have been the feelings of the
craftsman when the Guild of Coppersmiths refused to recognize it as a
“Masterpiece,” as they had already refused to accept his tomb-plate of
Elector Albrecht von Mainz!

Footnote 9:

  “Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte Nürnbergs.”



Assuredly it was not the Meistersingers of Nuremberg alone who failed to
appreciate a real masterpiece when they saw one. For it is on record
that this noble effigy was rejected by the Incorporated Guild of Masters
of Rotschmiedhandwerk, when it was submitted to them by Peter Vischer
the younger as the piece of work by which, for the second time, he
claimed the rank of master among them. We do not know on what
pettifogging grounds, whether of inaccuracy of detail or of personal
spite, admission was refused him. (Ill. 23.)

But it is clear that a considerable scandal was created by their
refusal. For it is further on record that the Council, moved perhaps by
the influence of his father and his friends, took the step of
interfering on behalf of the artist’s reputation. An appeal had been
made from the decision of the Guild, and the “Members of the Council,”
we learn from Baader, “to whom it was shown gave it their approval, and
on May 22 (1527?) they commanded the Masters of the Guild of
Coppersmiths to accept this monument as a masterpiece, and to recognize
the author of it as a Master.” This, they explained out of deference to
the feelings of the Masters, was to be an exceptional case, and was not
to be held to the prejudice of the Guild and its rules. The sworn
Masters, however, protested against such a proceeding, and they did not
obey the order of the Council. The matter rested there for some time,
but a few years after the death of the artist, in the interests,
perhaps, of his posthumous renown, the Council repeated their command
(May 22, 1532), and added a rider to the effect that Peter Vischer was
qualified as a Master by the monument he had made even if he had not
always executed his masterpieces in strict accordance with the
prescribed rules. As to the artist himself, he was apparently disgusted
by this second failure, and he gave up trying to become a Master in this
Guild on the merits of his work. For we read that “Peter Vischer’s son
of the same name was received as Master of the Guild of Thimble-Makers
in the year 1527. This Guild and that of the Coppersmiths were at that
period still united, though later they separated.”

But whether the monument won the young Peter Vischer the Mastership or
not, it is undoubtedly a masterpiece of German Renaissance. It is by
document and signature his as it is his in design and execution. There
are, indeed, still a few traces of the earlier influences of his house
visible. The background, for instance, is decorated in the Gothic style,
and the fantastic figures in the two corners formed by the arch remind
us of those on the tomb-plate of the Duchess Helene von Mecklenburg, for
whose father. Elector Philip of the Palatinate, his father had worked in
Heidelberg thirty-three years before. But in spite of the beauty of the
rich details of the elaborate architecture, arms and pilasters, that
form the setting of this work, it is the central commanding figure of
the whole which rightly rivets our attention. In this strong and
thoughtful man of action and man of mind, who is a Christian and a
fighter, a warrior, but none the less a theologian, whose watchword
recorded on the monument was (in spite of all the Popes and princes of
Europe), “The word of the Lord endureth for ever,” Peter Vischer has
proclaimed, so it has been suggested, the ideal Kaiser for whom Germany
was looking in vain, the perfect Emperor of the Reformation movement.
The power of portraiture which his practice as a maker of medallions had
developed, has enabled him to lend to the bronze a wonderful force of
expression, so that he may even challenge a comparison with Dürer, who,
thirty years previously, had portrayed the protector of Luther.

The design of this monument was borrowed by Hans Vischer, who copied it
in 1534 to serve as a memorial of Prince John the Stable, producing,
however, but a feeble version of the original.

It may be supposed that the relations between Peter Vischer the younger
and the Guild of Coppersmiths were somewhat strained by their treatment
of him. For this reason, perhaps, and also for the reason that the new
Italian fashion of tombstones, had, by this time, injuriously affected
the demand for bronze work, he seems to have thought seriously of
leaving Nuremberg in the year following the completion of the Wittenberg
monument. The quarrel with the House of Fugger, which we shall presently
relate, may likewise have conduced to make him entertain the proposal
which came to him now from the agent of Duke Albrecht of Prussia, or it
may be that he approached the agent on his own initiative. That prince
was, for reasons of his own with which we have no concern, anxious to
secure the services of a cannon-founder. It was suggested that the young
Peter Vischer should go to Prussia to act in this capacity. But he was
not destined to do so. The Duke’s agent reports unfavourably. “He is too
delicate a craftsman,” he says, “and has no experience in casting large
pieces.” It would have made little difference, in fact, if he had gone,
for he died in this same year—the year in which Nuremberg lost also her
prince of draughtsmen—Albert Dürer.

The documents which refer to this matter of the Duke Albrecht are to be
found in the State Archives at Königsberg, and were first quoted by
Döbner,[10] who writes as follows:

“Duke Albrecht of Prussia had corresponded in January, 1528, with a
citizen of Nuremberg named Bastian Startz, who was to procure a
cannon-founder for him from that city.” Startz wrote to him from there
on May 30, 1528, in very illiterate German, to the effect that “Jorg
Clingenbeck has had dealings with one who professes to be a
_Puxsengeisser_. Clingenbeck and I could not subsequently discover that
he had ever in his life cast any large pieces, but only monuments and
statuettes, and on that account your Highness is hereby advised that he
is too delicate a craftsman. And this _Puxsenmeister_ is called by the
name of Petter Vischer.”

Footnote 10:

  “Peter-Vischer-Studien.” A. W. Döbner.

As early as March 8, in the same year, “Pawl Viescher, son of Peter
Vischer, the copper worker at Nuremberg,” had received the following
letter from Königsberg:

“We have received your letter in which you say that we have it in mind
to have several cannons cast, and that we shall require a Master for
that purpose, and further that you are inclined to visit this country
and to see what is to be seen, and also that for the time being work
with your father is slack, and so forth. These and other matters in your
letter have been communicated to us. And on these points we give you to
understand that we do have it in view to cast several cannon, and,
seeing that we have heard favourable mention made of your father’s work,
we think it likely that you have learnt much from this same father of
yours, and we are therefore disposed to allow you to come here, and we
will then inspect your work and speak with you and have you bargained
with. This is the answer which we are graciously pleased to make to your
letter, and we consent to express to you our gracious favour. Given at
Königsberg. (Konigsperkuts.)”



Whether Paul did avail himself of this princely permission to go to
Prussia and be bargained with we do not know. If he did, he did not stay
there more than a year. For he was back in Nuremberg in September, 1529,
and in the following August he had sold the foundry which he had
inherited to his brother Hans, and was already settled at Mainz. There
he acquired the rights of a citizen, and died in December, 1531.

Meantime the Vischers, father and sons, were busy, and had at intervals
long been busy, with the last supreme work of their foundry, the Rathaus
Railing. The story of the chequered career of this beautiful work takes
us back some years in the history of the House. At the same time as
Maximilian commissioned Peter Vischer to execute two bronze figures for
his tomb, the great family of Fugger ordered a railing to be made to
shut off their family chapel, in St. Anne’s Church at Augsburg. The
design for this railing was completed by the old Peter Vischer. It was
submitted to and received the approval of the patron. This was during
the absence of Hermann Vischer in his journey to Rome in 1514-15. But
when he returned full of new ideas and laden with sketches of the
beautiful things he had seen, his enthusiasm for the new style of the
antique quickly imparted itself to his father and brothers. Always eager
to learn and ready to appreciate the best, father and brothers alike
studied the sketches of Hermann, and thus, after his early death, his
influence asserted itself more strongly than ever before. The result was
that the design for the railing no longer satisfied its author. It was
overhauled, and soon revised and improved in many details suggested by
the new-found inspiration of the later renaissance. (Ill. 24 and 25.)

The alterations thus introduced by the Vischer family can only have been
improvements; improvements introduced by these craftsmen because
anything below their best was intolerable to their artistic conscience.
But it does not pay to be an artist when you work on commission. So
Dürer also had found. And the Vischers in their turn suffered from their
enthusiasm. The Fuggers, who had given the commission and had expressed
their approval of the original design, died. Their heirs, noticing a
difference between the approved sketch and the finished product,
suspected a fraud, or, perhaps, seized the opportunity of avoiding the
expense of this piece of ancestral extravagance. They therefore brought
an action for breach of contract against the house of Vischer. After
several weary years of litigation—for the law’s delays stretched from
1522 to 1529—a decision was given. The Fuggers were released from the
responsibility of their ancestors’ commission, and the railing was
thrown upon the hands of the heirs of Peter Vischer. For the verdict was
not awarded till eight months after the old man’s death, which occurred
on the 7th of January, 1529, when he was buried in the same grave as his
two sons and three wives who had died before him. His heirs, then, the
sons who survived him, were left to dispose of the railing as best they
could, but they were not called upon to restore the money which had
already been paid on account, and which amounted to some fourteen
hundred odd gulden. They turned therefore to the Nuremberg Council and
offered the railing to them to adorn the Rathaus. On July 15, 1530, the
Council bought it as it was, paying six gulden per hundredweight for it.

The railing, still incomplete, was allowed to lie neglected in the
cellars of the Rathaus for some years. But at last it was finished and
erected. For when the Council heard on good authority that Count Otto
Heinrich of the Palatinate was anxious to secure it in order to adorn
his castle at Neuburg therewith, they were afraid lest if they did not
put it to some immediate use they might be forced into the position of
having no excuse for not making a present of it to that powerful
nobleman. They therefore hastily commissioned Hans Vischer, “the
Bronze-founder,” to complete the work—for a quarter of it still remained
uncast—and to set it up in the Rathaus. This, accordingly, he did, and
erected it on the 19th of April, 1540, twenty-seven years after the
Fugger family had first ordered it for their chapel. It was used for the
purpose of dividing the western portion of the great Hall, where the
Court of Justice held its sessions, from the rest of the room. The total
cost of the work amounted to 2,796 gulden. But so admirable did the
Council find it that they actually made a present of one hundred and
fifty gulden to the craftsman in addition to the price named, as a token
of their pleasure and satisfaction.



Unfortunately, the history of the misadventures of this railing is not
yet finished. It was removed in 1806 by the Bavarian Government, and,
just for the mere value of the metal contained in it, sold to a merchant
in Fürth. From him it passed again into the possession of a Nuremberger,
and some years later found its way to the South of France. There all
trace of this beautiful work of art has disappeared, and one is forced
to the reluctant conclusion that it was melted down by the purchaser for
the sake of the bronze of which it was composed. Our knowledge of it at
the present day is owing to a careful set of drawings which were made of
it in 1806, and which have been reproduced excellently and in full
detail by Dr. Lübke in the work to which we have so often referred.

The Railing was of bronze throughout, wrought with equal care and finish
on both sides, and composed of one hundred and fifty-eight separate
pieces. In length it measured nearly forty feet, and stood sixteen feet
high, rising at the highest point to twenty-five feet. The drawings
which have come down to us show that the fertility of the artist’s
invention did not interfere with his harmonious conception of the whole.
For though there is a truly wonderful wealth of decorative detail, all
in the style of the full Renaissance, it is admirably arranged and
subdued to its proper proportion.

Eight Corinthian pillars, with richly ornamented capitals, carried (I
base this description on Lübke’s work) a superstructure which terminated
throughout in an entablature, frieze and dog-tooth cornice. Of the seven
bays comprehended by these columns, three, alternating with the grilles,
formed the means of access to the other parts of the hall.

The principal entrance, in the centre, was ten feet high and was
finished with a semi-circular arch formed by a moulded architrave. The
spandrels of this arch were decorated with figures in relief, and these
figures were supported on caps which surmounted decorative panels
forming columns without bases. The two smaller and lower gates on either
side had square heads with crowning pediments. All three entrances were
still more distinctly set off in the composition of the whole, the
centre one by means of a rectangular superstructure in the form of an
ædicule with a crowning pediment, the two side ones by a segmental
pediment directly over the cornice, the upper members of which were the
details of the pediment. The erection over the central gate, one may
remark, is a blot in the composition: there is nothing to carry the eye
up to this abrupt, unsupported rectangle, and it does not harmonize with
the beautiful segmental pediments over the other two entrances.

Such was the simple framework, which, says Lübke, thanks to the
perfection of its arrangement and the beauty of its proportions, proved
so admirably effective. But the Master contributed also to the
decoration of every part of it all the wealth of his luxuriant
imagination. And he made use of the patterns of the full Renaissance,
such as were to be met with in Italy about the beginning of the
sixteenth century, in the works of Andrea Sansovino.

The columns, with their varied capitals in the Corinthian manner,
exhibited a beautiful diversity of invention. Every surface, too, was
most richly decorated; every member daintily wrought; the pilasters,
shafts of the columns, pedestals, borders and doorways, were embellished
with exquisitely drawn foliage-work mingled with masks and fantastic
beasts in ever fresh variations. Especial mention must be made of the
magnificent frieze of acanthus with figures of savage men interlaced in
different moments of combat. Other friezes showed garlands, wreaths, and
festoons of fruit hanging from the horns of oxen, and, between them,
winged angels’ heads and cornucopias overflowing with fruit and flowers.

The great bays or compartments arranged between the entrances were
filled with open metal-work, the bars whereof at the points of
intersection were embellished with ornaments of manifold devices. A
marvellous wealth of figures in relief was to be found in every
quarter—over the arch of the doorway; on the spandrels of the side gates
as well as on both the crowning segmental pediments and the rectangular
centre-piece. Even the angles of the cornice were adorned with fantastic
beings in whose manifold forms the humour of the Master, known to us
already from our study of the Sebaldusgrab, was revealed in full play.
Everywhere, and on either side of the railing, the same wealth of fancy
and freshness of invention is displayed in these ever varying, never
repeated forms.

In the spandrels of the arch of the central door were, on the outside,
struggling heroes, on the inside, figures of Victory. On the two
pediments of the side gates were the four Cardinal Virtues, surrounded
by beasts and creations of the fancy. The curved pediments above them
exhibited the battles of fantastic creatures of the sea, tritons and
nereids, and between them, within and without, the Arms of Nuremberg.
The great frieze showed us sporting children making music, and heroic
scenes of the battle of the Centaurs distinguished by a bold handling of
movement and a masterly freedom of form. Finally, in the pediment of the
centre-piece, crowning the whole, the Saviour was portrayed in the act
of benediction, holding the globe of the earth and surrounded by angel

The whole of this work, so far as we can judge from the drawings, adds
Lübke, is full of the highest beauty and life, and of such richness in
design and execution, that one is forced to reckon this noble creation
as the third great masterpiece of Vischer, after the monument at
Magdeburg and the tomb of St. Sebald at Nuremberg. In the general
design, as well as in the details of the ornament, the complete triumph
of the worship of the antique is evident. Only the figures of the
Saviour and of the Cardinal Virtues are borrowed from the ideas of
Christian art. The rest is sheer paganism.

“Without question Vischer’s Rathaus Railing takes the first place among
the masterpieces of the distinct and complete Renaissance in Germany.”


                               CHAPTER IX

                    THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF VISCHER

THE Rathaus Railing was the last and greatest of the works produced by
the combined efforts of the Vischer family. It is vain to attempt to
apportion the share of father and sons in it. That each had his share in
it we may easily deduce from the history of it given above, and the
result was a very perfect whole, the most complete and beautiful
achievement of German craftsmen labouring under the overwhelming
influence of neo-paganism in art.



It would be tedious and unprofitable to enumerate here the manifold
works, great and small, which have been in times past attributed to the
old Master by uncritical generations of credulous collectors. Almost
every piece of sixteenth or seventeenth century bronze work in Germany
has been at one time or another called a masterpiece by Peter Vischer.
But one characteristic piece undoubtedly by him is the “Boy with
Bagpipes” (_Knabe mit Dudelsack_), now in the Germanic Museum at
Nuremberg. (III. 26.) It is a charming little work, completely in the
manner of the Nuremberg school and of the Master of the St. Maurice
preserved in the Krafft House in the same town. Dürer, it will be
remembered, dealt once in a popular little engraving with the same
subject of a bagpiper, treating it, however, in a very different manner.

When Peter Vischer died in 1529 he left the Foundry he had established
at Nuremberg to his son Paul. Paul, as we have seen, had already shown
signs of being anxious to leave his native town and to seek his fortune
elsewhere. The trade of the bronze-workers in Nuremberg was no longer a
flourishing industry. On succeeding to the foundry, therefore, Paul
quickly seized his opportunity. He sold his inheritance to his brother
Hans in the same year and left Nuremberg. He went to live in Mainz, and
acquired there the rights of a burgher.



Hans remained to carry on his father’s business, and to complete a few
of his father’s inchoate commissions. He is known henceforth as Hans der
Giesser—Hans the Founder. He continued to use the trade mark of the
House, and on more than one occasion signed in his father’s name as the
lawful successor to the business. There is, for instance, a letter
extant which is nominally written by Peter Vischer, but in reality by
Hans in the deceased craftsman’s name, for it is dated January 25th,
1529, whereas Peter Vischer died on the sixth of that month. In that
letter Hans begs the Duke Heinrich von Mecklenburg to send for a
monument which had already been lying a whole year in the foundry, and
for which payment is demanded. This reference fixes the date of the
purely heraldic tomb-plate which commemorates the Duchess Helene von
Mecklenburg. (Ill. 27.)

An example of Hans’ use of the Vischer mark is to be found in the tomb
of Bishop Sigismund of Lindenau, in the Cathedral at Merseburg, whilst a
tablet with a high relief of a Madonna in the Parish Church at
Aschaffenburg bears an inscription to the effect that Johannes Vischer
of Nuremberg made it in 1530. The former of these two monuments consists
of a lifeless prelate kneeling before a weak and effeminate figure on
the cross. It dates from the year 1544, and is a work of no importance
except as an example of the extremely rapid deterioration exhibited by
German art after the days of Dürer and the great Vischers. Hans was not
an original artist of any talent, but merely a painstaking craftsman.
Where he had the taste and designs of his father and brother to guide
him he turned out some admirable work, as for example the second of the
above-named monuments. This tablet forms a pendant to the memorial of
Cardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg. The Christ-Child holds an apple in
one hand and stretches out the other with a life-like gesture, looking
the while at the Mother who carries him on her left arm. The Madonna’s
head is oval in shape, not of the square German type, and her eyes are
admirably full of expression. The drapery is both simple and boldly
handled. But every beauty in this beautiful work, from the central
figure down to the small angels who are playing musical instruments in
the corners, and who take their part in the crowning of Mary, is the
direct outcome of imitation—imitation of Peter Vischer and the Italian
masters he had copied and loved.

Another piece which was certainly cast by Hans Vischer but for which he
was not, in all probability, altogether responsible, is the tomb-plate
of Bishop Lorenz of Bibra, in the Cathedral at Würzburg, for the Bishop
died as early as the year 1519. The hand of Vischer’s father, therefore,
may well be assumed to be traceable in this design. Ten years after the
Bishop’s death we find Hans, through the medium of the Nuremberg
Council, presenting a petition to the Bishop of Bamberg, in which the
executor of my Lord of Bibra is humbly requested to pay the twenty-two
gulden still owing to the craftsman.

The tomb of the Elector Johann Cicero of Brandenburg, which is in the
Cathedral at Berlin, is also signed by Hans Vischer, and it is dated
1530. (Johannes Vischer Noric. Facieb. 1530.) This tomb was a long time
in the making, and in the original conception of it Peter Vischer the
father was concerned. This we may gather from a letter to Prince Joachim
I., wherein he acknowledges the receipt of two hundred gulden on account
of the tomb which the said prince had discussed with him in his
workshop, and for which, Peter reminds his Highness, he had made two
designs on paper. He now requests the Prince to return to him one of
those designs in order that he may be able to complete the work to the
best advantage.

The rough sketch for this tomb or part of it is all that we should care
to attribute to Peter Vischer in this matter. He must have entrusted the
execution of the commission to one of his less gifted sons, who was
following without being able completely to master the developments which
were taking place in the style of the House. The tomb, by whatever hand,
has clearly been executed at two different periods and in two distinct
parts. In style the original portion, which is the lower, is stiff and
conventional, and the architectural framework is chiefly Gothic, with
here and there, as in the case of the medallion-heads, a touch of the
Renaissance. The later portion is the upper, and it reflects the change
which had in the meantime come over the artistic aims of the House of
Vischer; but it reflects them in a feeble and uncertain manner. The
mantle of the Renaissance appears to sit uneasily on shoulders cast in
the Gothic mould, and to betray the workman who has never got rid of the
hardness and stiffness of his early days. But he obeys none the less the
influence of the artists in the house, and after his father’s death
signs the monument Johann Vischer.

A much more successful instance of Hans Vischer’s work in the
Renaissance style would be the canopy over the tomb of St. Margaret in
the Parish Church of Aschaffenburg. The authorship of this canopy must
not, indeed, be attributed to that craftsman without reserve; but, if it
did come from the Nuremberg foundry at all, to Hans should be given the
credit of it. For it belongs to the year 1536.



A less doubtful example of his painstaking craftsmanship is to be found
in the Apollo, of which an illustration is given here. (Ill. 28.) It
stands now in the Court of the Rathaus at Nuremberg, and serves as a
fountain-piece. Hans has based the construction of his bronze upon an
engraving by Jacopo de’ Barbari. But he has not hesitated to introduce
several alterations from the original designs. Vischer’s Apollo has the
right hand, which is about to let the arrow fly from the string, more
energetically drawn back, and the elbow-joint is set further back. In
Barbari’s drawing Apollo is represented as stretching the bow and
looking down, although he is pointing the arrow upwards. It was a
distinct improvement when Hans made the Far-darter’s gaze to follow the
direction of the arrow’s flight. Amongst other minor alterations he has
represented the God, probably out of consideration for the material in
which he was working, with short hair in place of the locks streaming in
the wind found in Barbari’s design. The obvious fault of the piece—a
fault which proves entirely ruinous to its success as a work of art—is
that upon the slim, attenuated Italian figure, excessively coarse and
heavy hands and feet have been grafted. And the arms are grossly
exaggerated in length. The playing children and sporting dolphins on the
base of the fountain are but crude adaptations of the stock-in-trade
with which the labours of Peter and Hermann had supplied the paternal

The tale of the works of Hans Vischer is told, and so far as we can
judge there is no reason to claim for him a higher position than that of
a craftsman who conscientiously transmitted into bronze the designs and
inspirations of others. The fall of the House of Vischer was, in fact,
very close at hand. It may be dated in its final realization soon after
the year 1549, for it was then that Hans Vischer determined to leave his
native town and to settle in Eichstädt. And this is the last we hear of
him in the Nuremberg records. The Council of Nuremberg, we are told, did
indeed endeavour, through the mediation of the Guild of Coppersmiths, to
induce, if not to compel, him to remain at home. But he persisted in his
determination to depart. He was ready even to pay the price of binding
himself not to practise his craft abroad. He was to accept no commission
for a bronze-work, such were the terms laid down, without the knowledge
and the consent of the Council, and if he then succeeded in obtaining
their sanction to undertake it, he was to execute the whole of the
casting, from beginning to end, at Nuremberg. His readiness to comply
with these conditions would seem to indicate that neither at home nor
abroad did he any longer have hopes of success in his craft. The bronze
industry, apparently, had gone from bad to worse: the fashion for bronze
tombs and memorials had passed, and commissions no longer poured in upon
the Vischer Foundry as they had done in the palmy days of Maximilian.
Germany was already in the bitter throes of that Catholic reaction from
which she was only destined to emerge after the terrible ordeal of the
Thirty Years’ War. Nuremberg herself was engaged in a bitter and
exhausting struggle with her hereditary enemies the Margraves of
Brandenburg. Wars must needs come, but artists are the first to suffer
from them. For peace and prosperity are necessary to provide citizens
with the means of enjoying that luxury which is art. And art is the
first luxury which men under the pressure of taxation are willing to
deny themselves.

It was then, probably, for these reasons, and perhaps from other
considerations of which we know nothing, that Hans Vischer decided to
leave the “quaint old town of toil and traffic, quaint old town of art
and song” which was his birth-place. He accepted the terms which were
imposed upon him by the Council, and on which he obtained leave of
absence to live at Eichstädt and at other places, if he chose, for five
years. At the expiration of that term, however, it was stipulated that
he should return and dwell at his old home in Nuremberg. Whether he did
so return we are not informed. For with his departure in 1549 he
disappears for ever from our ken. Thus the members of the Vischer family
were scattered, and their works, under the stress of the wars and misery
which came upon the land, were forgotten or confused, and the name and
fame of their house sank once more into that obscurity whence Hermann
Vischer had begun to raise it just a century before.


                               CHAPTER X


THE position of the Vischers in the hierarchy of the artists not very
difficult to appreciate, and it has perhaps been sufficiently indicated
in the course of our enumeration of their works. They—for in forming an
estimate of their work, we need not, nor cannot, separate father and
sons—were great craftsmen, interpreting the teachings of other and
greater artists of other lands, but yet assuredly not without an
individuality and original power of their own. The view once advanced by
Heideloff cannot be for a moment entertained, the view, that is, that
they were mere workers in bronze who reproduced in that material the
ideas and drawings of others. The evidence of our eyes, which enable us
to trace the development of their style, would be enough to refute that
opinion, even if we were without the documentary evidence which shows
that father and sons alike were patient and painstaking draughtsmen as
well as craftsmen all their lives.

In the history of German art, then, their work represents, as we have
remarked above, the transition from Gothic to the Renaissance style. It
is eloquent to us of the passing from the conventions and the
extravagances of late Gothic to a complete acceptance and delight in
neo-paganism. And it was natural that, in the spirit of intense
enthusiasm for Italian art which was upon them, these German craftsmen
should reproduce what they had learnt from a Jacopo de’ Barbari, a
Sansovino or a Donatello. They did, indeed, plagiarize when they wished
with a splendid readiness and a fervour unashamed. They copied in a
spirit of sincerest flattery an angel making music, or a symbol of an
Evangelist from Donatello; an Apostle or a dolphin from an Italian
building; a pose, a hand or the fold of a mantle from Leonardo da Vinci.
The list could be expanded. But it would not prove that the Vischers
were mere servile copyists. They could do more than imitate. They could
apply the lessons they had learnt from their careful study of the
Italian Masters, and apply them with successful originality. It is in
the energy which lives in the King Arthur, in the simple yet vigorous
composition and execution of bas-reliefs, such as the Healing of the
blind man on St. Sebald’s tomb, or the Tucher Memorial, with their
wholly admirable treatment of lines and planes; it is in the tender and
spiritual feeling infused into the greatest of their bronze portraits
that the unanswerable vindication lies of an imitation proved not too
slavish and of a study that has not deadened but inspired.

It may indeed be the case that the lessons which they thus taught were
sterilizing: that the very enthusiasm for Italian art which they showed
and generated was destined to destroy the flower of native German art.
Certain it is that the Vischers founded no school and that individuality
in German art was, from this time forth, blighted and crushed. But there
are a dozen other causes to which this same decay of the native art may
with as much probability be attributed. It is quite as likely to be due
to the material facts of German domestic history as to the exotic
influence of a foreign nation. But for us it remains only to take the
work of these craftsmen as they gave it to the world, and to apportion
to them the praise they have deserved. They aimed, with the most
elaborate care and anxious perseverance, at perfection of detail, and
this perfection they did frequently attain without prejudice to the
proportionment and simplicity of the whole. The artist who pays great
attention to the minute is too often afflicted with a kind of æsthetic
myopia which prevents him from perceiving the defects of his complete
design. His work becomes too curious or else florid and ineffective.
This is the besetting sin of Teutonic art, and it is a danger to which
metal-workers of all times and in all countries are especially liable.
The Vischers in their best work succeeded in avoiding it, for there we
find a repose, a dignity, a simplicity and a spirituality which raises
it to the level of the very best ever executed.



                      HERMANN VISCHER. Died, 1487.


                                                       Wittenberg, 1457.

TOMB-PLATES. At Meissen and Bamberg.

LÖFFELHOLZ CRUCIFIX. St. Sebaldus Church, Nuremberg.

                      PETER VISCHER. 145(?)-1529.


                                        Stiftskirche, Römhild, 1487 (?).

FIRST DESIGN FOR A SEBALDUSGRAB. Signed with initials on either side of
    Cross with hook emblem.

                                                           Vienna, 1488.

TOMB OF BISHOP HEINRICH III., Gross von Trockau. Probably after a design
    by W. Katzheimer.

                                               Cathedral, Bamberg, 1492.

MONUMENT OF BISHOP GEORG II., Marshal von Ebenet. From a design by W.

                                            Cathedral, Bamberg, 1492(?).

TOMB OF BISHOP JOHN IV. (Johann Roth). Figures of six Apostles. Signed,

                                               Cathedral, Breslau, 1496.

TOMB OF ARCHBISHOP ERNST. Described, pp. 24-30. Signed, “GEMACHT ZU

                                             Cathedral, Magdeburg, 1497.

SAINT MAURICE. Fountain in the Court of the Krafft House.


MONUMENT OF BISHOP VEIT. After design by some other artist.


MONUMENT OF COUNT EITEL, FRIEDRICH II. von Hohenzollern and his wife
    Magdalena, Countess of Brandenburg. After a drawing by Albrecht
    Dürer. Partly destroyed in 1782.

                                           Stadtkirche, Hechingen, 1500.

MONUMENT OF COUNT HERMANN VIII. of Henneberg and his wife Elizabeth,
    Countess of Brandenburg. After the drawing by Albrecht Dürer.

                                            Stiftskirche, Römhild, 1500.

TOMB OF CARDINAL-BISHOP FREDERICK. From the Vischer Foundry, but hardly
    from the Master’s hand.

                                            Cathedral, Cracow (d. 1503).


                                        Cathedral, Halberstadt, 1510(?).


                                                        Innsbruck, 1513.

CHRIST ON THE CROSS, on a tablet of about six inches. “This was formerly
    in the Silberrad Collection. Count Clam-Martinitz purchased it.
    After his death it came into the possession of the Director of the
    Academy Bergler, who had it gilded.” Retberg.

                                                        At Prague, 1515.

TOMB-PLATE of Burgomaster Tiedemann Beck and his wife.

                                             Marienkirche, Lübeck, 1521.

MEMORIAL TABLET of Prebendary Henning Goden. (Crowning of Mary.)

         Schlosskirche, Wittenberg, (Replica in Erfurt Cathedral), 1521.

MEMORIAL TABLET of Anton Kress, who is represented kneeling and praying
    before a crucifix.

                                             S. Lorenzkirche, Nuremberg.

                     SMALLER WORKS IN THE GERMANIC
                             PETER VISCHER.

DOG SCRATCHING ITSELF. The authenticity of this is very doubtful. It is
    not worthy of the Master whose name it bears.

                                         Replicas in Berlin and Dresden.


NEPTUNE (Fountain-figure).

SMALL GENIUS on a temple which rests on six columns. Three beasts of the
    sea, hanging by their tails, look out from it. It is borne by six
    serpents. It probably forms a small epitome of the Sebaldusgrab.


                          WORKS BY THE FAMILY.

ST. WENZEL (from the Vischer Foundry, but probably the work of an

                                                      Cathedral, Prague.


                                              Cathedral, Schwerin, 1528.

TOMB OF ST. SEBALD. Described in Chap. IV. Signed, see p. 44. Made with
    the aid of his five sons. What share is due to each we have
    discussed in the text.

                               St. Sebalduskirche, Nuremberg, 1508-1519.

RATHAUS RAILING. By Peter Vischer and his sons, notably Hermann, Peter
    and Hans. Formerly in the Rathaus, Nuremberg. Destroyed 1806.


                       PETER VISCHER THE YOUNGER



    ALTER. 22 ANO 1509.”


    VISCHER. AN. 1511.”


                                                         Innsbruck 1513.

INKSTAND. (α) Vase decorated with medallion heads and scroll work
    between which is repeated the emblem of the two fish, back to back,
    impaled with a dagger. A female figure, helmeted, stands by the
    vase, pointing to herself. A skull is thrust backward by her right
    foot. Against the vase rests a shield of quadrate form, and on the
    ground is a club and a label with the motto VITAM NON MORTEM
    RECOGITA, inscribed in relief.

                  Fortnum Collection, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1510(?).

INKSTAND. (β) A female figure, pointing upwards, rests on an oviform
    vase. A round shield and sword lie upon the ground, behind the
    figure and vase. In the foreground is a skull. Against the vase
    rests a tablet on which runs the motto: VITAM NON MORTEM RECOGITA.
    Beneath these words is the emblem of the two fishes, back to back,
    impaled, with the initials P.V. The date, 1525, incised with emblem
    of cross and hook, on the base.

                     Fortnum Collection, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1525.

ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE. Plaquette (Bas-Relief) In the Collection of M.

                                                          Paris, 1515(?)

ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE. Plaquette (Bas-Relief).

                                            Berlin Museum, 1520 (circ.).

ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE. Plaquette, as above.

                                          Museum, Hamburg, 1520 (circ.).

ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE. Plaquette, as above.

                       Institution of St. Paul, Carinthia, 1520 (circ.).

All four plaquettes carry the sign of two fish back to back pierced by a

    meeting the sisters of Lazarus. Signed, with initials on either side
    of cross with hook emblem (see p. 74). NORMBERGE appears beneath the
    initials and sign, and under it the date, 1521.

                                 Cathedral, Ratisbon (Regensburg), 1521.

MONUMENT OF THE EISSEN FAMILY. Bas-relief of the Entombment. Signed,
    with initials “P. V.” on either side of mark. The date on both sides
    of the cross. “NORIMBERGE” appears beneath the initials and sign.

                                    St. Ægidius Church, Nuremberg, 1522.

    with date, 1524, and mark.

                                         Goethe-National-Museum, Weimar.


                                             Germanic Museum, Nuremberg.

    Mainz. Signed, “OP’[TN2] M. PETRI. FISCHERS. NORIMBERGE: 1525.”

                                            Stiftskirche, Aschaffenburg.


                                        Schlosskirche, Wittenberg, 1527.


TOMB OF BISHOP LORENZ OF BIBRA. Cast by Hans; but the hand of Peter
    Vischer the elder is very likely traceable in the design.

                                              Cathedral, Würzburg, 1529.

APOLLO FOUNTAIN. In the Court of the Rathaus, Nuremberg. After a drawing
    by Jacopo de’ Barbari.


TOMB OF JOHN THE STABLE. (A weak imitation of the monument of Frederick
    the Wise by his brother.) Signed, “H. V.”

                                        Schlosskirche, Wittenberg, 1534.


                                      Stiftskirche, Aschaffenburg, 1536.


                                       S. Lorenzkirche, Nuremberg, 1541.

    F.” on either side of the mark of the Vischers.)

                                                   Cathedral, Merseburg.


                                      Stiftskirche, Aschaffenburg, 1530.

GRAVE PLATE OF BISHOP OF STADION. (Crucifix between Mary, John and two

                                    St. Ægidius Church, Nuremberg, 1543.

    Signed “IOHANNES VISCHER. NORIC. FACIEB. 1530.” (The early portion
    probably in part designed by Peter the elder.)

                                                      Cathedral, Berlin.

                            HERMANN VISCHER.

THE APOSTLE BARTHOLOMEW and other works on the Sebaldusgrab.




 Albrecht, Cardinal, tomb of, 86, 87, 102, 123.

 Allegory on the Reformation, aquarelle, 88.

 Apollo, statue of, 125, 126.

 Arthur, King, statue of, 66, 69, 70, 83, 131.

 Aschaffenburg, tomb of Cardinal Albrecht at, 86;
   tablet at, 122, 123;
   canopy over the tomb of St. Margaret at, 125.

 Bamberg, tomb-plates at, 6;
   tomb of Bishop Heinrich III. at, 22, 30;
   tomb of Bishop George II. at, 22, 30.

 Barbari, Jacopo de’, 15, 37, 52, 89, 125, 131.

 Baumgärtner, Lucas, 32.

 Berlin, tomb of the Elector Johann Cicero, in the Cathedral at, 123,

 Boy with Bagpipes, 119, 120.

 Brandenburg, Magdalena, Countess of, 32, 33.

 Brandenburg, Elizabeth, Countess of, 33.

 Brandenburg, Cardinal Albrecht von, 86;
   tomb-plate of, 86, 87.

 Breslau, tomb of Bishop John IV. at, 25.

 Bronze founding, in Germany, 4, 12, 128.

 Clussenbach, Georg and Martin von, 5.

 Cocleus, his Cosmographia quoted, 49.

 Decker, Hans, 6.

 Donatello, 70, 71, 131.

 Dreyfus, M., 89, 90.

 Dürer, Albert, 2, 3, 6, 32, 37, 51, 52, 64, 65, 76, 88, 89, 120, 131.

 Eissen Monument, the, 74, 77, 79.

 Eobanus Hessus, 56.

 Fortnum, H., 95.

 Frederick the Wise, 89;
   monument of, 87, 101-106.

 Fugger Family, the, 110, 111.

 Goden, Henning, tablet to, 72, 73.

 Godl, Stefan, 65.

 Harsdorffer, Peter, 24.

 Hechingen, monument at, 30, 32, 33, 34.

 Henneberg, Count Otto IV. von, monument of, 20.

 Henneberg, Count Hermann VIII. von, monument of, 30, 31, 34.

 Hohenzollern, Count Eitel Friedrich II. von, monument of, 30, 32, 33.

 Holzschuher, Lazarus, 42.

 Imhof, Peter, 41, 42.

 Innsbruck, tomb of Maximilian at, 66.

 Joachim I., Prince, 124.

 John the Stable, Prince, memorial of, 106.

 Katzheimer, Wolfgang, 22, 30.

 Krafft, Adam, 3, 10, 14, 21, 24, 28, 36, 40, 56, 60, 64, 82.

 Lamberger, Simon, 22.

 Leonardo da Vinci, 39, 51, 78, 131.

 Lindenast, Sebastien, 10, 18, 40.

 Magdeburg, tomb of Archbishop Ernst at, 14, 15, 23-30, 58, 60, 62, 117.

 Maximilian, the Emperor, 64, 65;
   visit to Peter Vischer, 65;
   tomb of, 66.

 Mecklenburg, Duchess Helene von, tablet to, 105, 121, 122.

 Meissen, tomb-plates at, 6.

 Merseburg, tomb of Bishop Sigismund at, 122.

 Nuremberg, position of, 1, 2;
   the Guild of Coppersmiths at, 6, 12, 87, 102, 104, 105, 106, 128;
   the Rathaus Railing, 16, 41, 72, 109-118;
   St. Ægidius, Church of, 74;
   St. Sebald, Church of, font, 5;
   “Crucifixion” outside, 7;
   statue of Peter Vischer in, 3, 4, 13;
   the shrine of St. Sebald, 15, 20, 21, 36, 41 et seq., 74, 76, 117,

 “Nuremberg Madonna,” the, 80, 81.

 Orpheus and Eurydice, plaquettes, 40, 58, 77, 89-94.

 Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, 95, 96, 97.

 Pfinzing, Melchior, 65.

 Philip, Elector-Palatine, 22, 105.

 Pirkheimer, Willibald, 2, 88.

 Prussia, Duke Albrecht of, and Peter Vischer the younger, 106, 107,

 Ratisbon, Tucher Monument at, 7.

 Römhild, Monument at, 20, 30, 31.

 Sachs, Hans, 10, 88.

 St. Bartholomew, statue of, 61, 63.

 St. Maurice, statuettes of, 28, 29, 120.

 St. Paul, statue of, 59, 60.

 St. Peter, statue of, 46, 62, 63, 71.

 St. Sebald, statue of, 46, 47.

 St. Sebald’s Church—see Nuremberg.

 Sansovino, Andrea, 37, 39, 89, 98, 116, 131.

 Schedel, Weltchronik, 38.

 Schön, Martin, 15.

 Schreyer, Sebald, 38, 41.

 Schwenter, Pancratz, 38.

 Schwerin, tablet in the Cathedral at, 121, 122.

 Sebaldusgrab, the, 15, 36, 41 et seq., 74, 76, 117, 131;
   model for, 20, 21.

 Stoss, Veit, 2, 21, 60, 64, 82.

 Theodoric, statue of, 66, 68, 71.

 Traut, Wolfgang, 41.

 Tucher, Anton, 41, 42.

 Tucher Monument, the, 73, 131.

 Vischer, Barbara, 17, 18.

 Vischer, Eberhard, 7.

 Vischer, Hans (the Founder), 10, 18, 106;
   completion of the Rathaus Railing by 112;
   inherits the foundry, 108, 120;
   works by, 122-126;
   leaves Nuremberg, 127, 128, 129.

 Vischer, Hermann (the elder), 1, 6, 7, 36, 62.

 Vischer, Hermann (the younger), journey to Rome, 15, 41, 110;
   death of, 18, 41;
   figure of St. Bartholomew by, 63.

 Vischer, Jakob, 17.

 Vischer, Paul, 17, 18, 108, 120.

 Vischer, Peter (the elder), statue of, 3, 4, 13;
   birth and boyhood, 7, 9-11;
   domestic life, 16-18;
   early works, 20;
   summoned to Heidelberg by the Elector Philip, 22;
   return to Nuremberg, 24;
   the tomb of Archbishop Ernst, 24;
   monuments at Römhild and Hechingen, 30;
   the shrine of St. Sebald, 36, 41 et seq.;
   visited by Maximilian, 65;
   figure of Theodoric, 67, 68, 71;
   quarrel with the Fuggers, 110, 111;
   death of, 111.

 Vischer, Peter (the younger), 8;
   journey to Italy, 15, 38, 39, 40, 50;
   medallions by, 16, 39, 40;
   marriage of, 17;
   death of, 18, 100;
   his Orpheus and Eurydice plaquettes, 40, 58, 77, 89-94;
   inkstands by, 40, 58, 84, 89, 95-100;
   work on the Sebaldusgrab by, 58, 62, 77, 84;
   statue of King Arthur, 67, 69, 70, 83;
   the Tucher monument, 74, 75;
   the Nuremberg Madonna attributed to, 82-85;
   tomb-plate of Cardinal Albrecht, 86, 87;
   aquarelle by, 88;
   tomb of Elector Frederick, 101-106;
   Duke Albrecht’s proposal to, 106-108.

 Wittenberg, font at, 6, 7, 62;
   tablet at, 72, 73;
   monument of the Elector Frederick at, 101.

 Wolgemut, Michel, 3, 15, 36, 38, 45, 76.

 Würzburg, tomb of Bishop Lorenz of Bibra at, 123.




 ● Transcriber’s note:

    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was corrected.

    ○ An entry for the Index was added to the Table of Contents.

    ○ The Table of Contents was reformatted to be more readable.

    ○ In the list of Illustrations, the phrase “The Same” referred to
      the item above it. Because the location couldn’t be right
      justified, this wasn’t clear and the text has been literally
      duplicated from the item above. In the Bibliography the same was
      done with ditto marks (for “Lübke”), which can’t be aligned in
      HTML the way the was on the printed page.

    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.

    ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only
      when a predominant form was found in this book.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Peter Vischer" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.