Tilman Riemenschneider, (born c. 1460, Heilgenstadt or
Osterode, Domain of the Teutonic Order [Germany]—died July
7, 1531, Würzburg), master sculptor whose wood portrait
carvings and statues made him one of the major artists of
the late Gothic period in Germany; he was known as the
leader of the Lower Franconia school.
Riemenschneider was the son of the
mint master of Würzburg, and the younger Riemenschneider
opened a highly successful workshop there in 1483. As a
civic leader he was councillor (1504–20) and burgomaster
(1520–25). During the Peasants’ Revolt (1525), he
sympathized with the revolutionaries and was imprisoned for
a short time, during which he temporarily lost his civic
responsibilities and patrons.
His first documented work was the
altar for the Münnerstadt parish church (1490–92), which was
later dismantled. He had a continuous flow of commissions;
his major work, the Altar of the Virgin (c. 1505–10) in
Herrgotts Church at Creglingen, is a wood altar, 32 feet (10
metres) high, depicting the life of Mary. Riemenschneider
employed numerous assistants on the massive monument, but he
executed the dominant life-size figures himself. Other major
works are Adam and Eve, stone figures from the Würzburg Lady
Chapel; the Altar of the Holy Blood (1501–05), in St. Jakob,
Rothenburg; and the Tomb of Henry II and Kunigunde
(1499–1513), in Bamberg Cathedral.
Although wood was his major medium,
he also created pieces in marble, limestone, and alabaster.
The sharply folded, flowing drapery on Riemenschneider’s
figures make his work easily identifiable. His later years
in Kitzingen were spent restoring altarpieces and carving.