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Revival and Invention

Sculpture through its Material Histories

Edited By Sébastien Clerbois and Martina Droth

Materials may seem to be sculpture’s most obvious aspect. Traditionally seen as a means to an end, and frequently studied in terms of technical procedures, their intrinsic meaning often remains unquestioned. Yet materials comprise a field rich in meaning, bringing into play a wide range of issues crucial to our understanding of sculpture. This book places materials at the centre of our approach to sculpture, examining their symbolic and aesthetic language, their abstract and philosophical associations, and the ways in which they reveal the political, economic and social contexts of sculptural practice. Spanning a chronology from antiquity through to the end of the nineteenth century, the essays collected in this book uncover material properties as fundamental to artistic intentionality.


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Martin Hirsch - The Late Gothic Clay Sculpture of Bavaria 63


Martin Hirsch The Late Gothic Clay Sculpture of Bavaria In the period around 1400, large clay figures began to be created in some parts of Germany, Austria and Italy, without obvious connections between these regions. It can be argued that the genre of the large-scale clay figure was born in this era: nothing similar existed in previous periods. What is puzzling is the motivation for this new emergence. Was it an eagerness on the part of artists to try something new? Was clay particularly easy to come by in those days? Had the market undergone a change? When considered in relation to the Italian early Renaissance, one theory involves the idea that the use of clay must be interpreted as a return to a technique of antiquity. For example, Lorenzo Ghiberti cites Plinys’s ideas, arguing that the Etrus- cans were the first to sculpt in clay in Italy, which makes clay sculpture a genre of particular traditional importance.1 In this chapter, however, I will discuss the late mediaeval clay sculpture produced in Germany, limiting myself to Bavaria, the region where it assumed its most significant role. I will focus on clay sculptures produced for exterior contexts, as this is where its appearance during a particular moment in the early fifteenth century is most prominent. As a material, clay lent itself to decorating exteriors, since, once fired, it weathers well and can therefore be used as a substitute for stone. The historic importance of clay sculpture in Bavaria is self-evident, when...

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