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Daucher, Hans Adolph

Hans Adolph Daucher Steinrelief Maria mit dem Kinde

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1486 Ulm – 1538 Stuttgart

Title
Stone Relief “Mary and Child”
Time
Augsburg, around 1510
Material
Kelheim limestone, traces of polychrome mounting
Measurements
8 × 6 ¾ in

This impressive bas-relief by the famous Augsburg Renaissance sculptor Hans Daucher shows the Virgin Mary and child as a half-figure between two pillars crowned with coats of arms. The master craftsman is highly praised by trade specialists, who put him “[…] at the pinnacle of artists who led the ascension of the High Renaissance in German sculpture […]” (Wilhelm Bode: Ein Altar in Kelheimer Stein vom Augsburger Meister Hans Daucher in den Königlichen Museen zu Berlin, in: Jahrbuch der preußischen Kunstsammlungen, 8 (1887), p. 10). In his monograph, Thomas Eser describes the master as the “Dürer of sculpture” within the early German Renaissance (Thomas Eser: Hans Daucher. Augsburger Kleinplastik der Renaissance (Kunstwissenschaftliche Studien vol. 65), Munich, Berlin 1996, p. 9).

Like his father, Hans Adolph Daucher was a sculptor and carver, but also a medallist. Both belonged to the so-called “Ulmer School” (artists during the late Gothic period who were active in Ulm or were born there) and were active in Augsburg from approx. 1490/91 onwards. This meant that after 1512, Daucher collaborated on the famed sculptural configuration of the interior of the Fugger Chapel in St. Anne’s Church in Augsburg. Daucher’s speciality were small-scale, elaborately detailed bas-reliefs in which he blended local traditions with new, modern shapes and motifs to create independent, highquality works of art. His works are carved so delicately in stone that they in fact more closely resemble the techniques used by a goldsmith or etcher. What is more, he aimed not to create reliefs that were as three-dimensional as possible, as had been common up until then, but rather a depiction of the visual space that would suggest depth.

The German master sculptor crafted this piece of art from the famous Kelheim limestone from Lower Bavaria. This natural stone was formed approximately 150 million years ago out of dead reefs and corals from the Jurassic Sea, and was then processed in, for example, the Munich Ruhmeshalle, the Nymphenburg Palace or St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. Thanks to its fine-grained structure and medium hardness, this stone is excellently suited to meticulous lapidary work.

Poised between two short columns crowned with coats of arms, Mary is depicted as a half-length figure holding her child. The naked child has his right arm around his mother’s neck, who is tilting her head in his direction, and in his left hand he is holding grapes. Grapes are an ancient symbol that in Christianity refers to the Eucharist. The Virgin Mary is wearing a crown, her hair is loose and her clothes are characterized by rich, flowing drapery. There is an interplay between decoration of her clothes and the crown. The background is designed in the shape of a curtain with tendrils. The artwork exhibits a realistic presentation with a sketch-like definition of the portrait
features, which is characteristic for Daucher. This smallscale relief is a valuable example of Hans Daucher’s aesthetic qualities and artisanal perfection.

illustr. in: Mittelalterliche Skulpturen einer Wiener Sammlung, Vienna 1937, fig. 50.

lit.: T. Eser: Hans Daucher. Augsburger Kleinplastik der Renaissance, Berlin 1996.

cf.: relief by Hans Daucher “Annunciation” in the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna (inv. no. Kunstkammer, 4422) and Mary and Child in the Maximilianmuseum in Augsburg (inv. no. 5703).

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