Tilman Riemenschneider, German, Pietà, ca. 1515-1525, Lindenwood with polychromy; 45.7 x 38.1 x 13.2 cm (18 x 15 x 5 3/16 inches), Museum Works of Art Fund 59.128
A familiar subject in German Renaissance sculpture, the Pietà inspired devout Christians through its emotional intensity. In this finely carved example of Tilman Riemenschneider’s late work, light flickers across the intricately looped drapery of the Virgin as she mourns the naked, broken body of Christ. The artist varied the more typical representation of this subject by placing Christ’s body on the ground rather than on the lap of the Virgin. This subtle shift, which connects Christ to the earth, highlights his humanity over his divinity. Although Riemenschneider maintained a large workshop in the northern Bavarian town of Würzburg, this small sculpture appears to have been carved by his own hand, possibly to be used as a model for a large-scale sculpture.