The Rimini Altar at Johanniterkirche

Famous alabaster masterpiece on display in Schwäbisch Hall from 1 November


It is one of the most precious alabaster ensembles in Europe and one of the most important works of medieval figural sculpture: the Rimini Altarpiece. Not only can you marvel at the outstanding artistic qualities of its unknown creator; almost 600 years after its creation, the work, which was created around 1430, is considered unique thanks to the number of preserved figures. From 1 November 2023, the Rimini Altarpiece, one of the highlights of Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung in Frankfurt, will be on display at Johanniterkirche in Schwäbisch Hall.

In 2017, an international research and conservation project taking several years was launched in Frankfurt on the Rimini Altarpiece, which once adorned the altar of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Rimini-Covignano, Italy. What started as a restoration project became a geochemical mystery hunt that led across Europe. The ensemble of 18 figures was not created in Italy, but rather by a Southern Dutch sculptor in Bruges, made of alabaster from the Steigerwald in Franconia, Germany. The spectacular results provided new impetus for art history research on the oeuvre of the mysterious Master of the Rimini Altarpiece.

In impressive snapshots, the Master draws viewers close to the action, turns them into witnesses of the crucifixion of Christ. The centerpiece is a dominating cross, on which hangs the fragile-looking crucified Christ. His thin legs are bent, his emaciated upper body is already tilted to the side, on his head hanging forward he wears the crown of thorns. Six apostles flank him on each side. In addition, Mary Magdalene, desperately clutching the base of the cross, the two condemned thieves at the cross, the mourning women, together with mother of Jesus sinking down in pain, the group around the converted centurion with his impressively designed shield and other male figures are gathered on Calvary.

All figures were carved in the round and formerly partially polychrome. Typically, they follow the formal aesthetic ideals of the so-called Beautiful Style (approx. 1380-1430), which is also known as the International Gothic Style because it was found throughout Europe.  However, in the unsparing rendering of the dislocated limbs of the thieves or the finesse of the faces down to the wrinkles and folds of the eyelids, Realism is already breaking through, which was to become decisive for art throughout Europe in the following decades.

Johanniterkirche in Schwäbisch Hall: The Rimini Altar at Johanniterkirche. From 1 November 2023 to 7 April 2024. 11 am to 5 pm daily. Admission free of charge. www.kunst.wuerth.com

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