An Exceptional Gothic Wood Figure of Saint Florian, German, Early 16th Century

An Exceptional Gothic Wood Figure of Saint Florian, German, Early 16th Century

c. 1510 Germany

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Carved Wood Figure of St. Florian. Pouring water onto a burning miniature castle. South German, Swabia, early 16th century. Limewood. Height: 87cm., 34¼ inches.

In the present sculpture St. Florian is shown wearing elaborate Medieval armour, with a large staff in his left hand and a pail in his right, from which he is pouring water onto a burning miniature castle by his feet. The general composition is similar to other late Medieval compositions of this subject from South Germany and Austria, such as one now in the Cluny Museum. In this version, however, Florian is portrayed in a more classical, idealised manner which was common in South Germany in the early 16th Century.

The facial features of the present figure are comparable to a bust of St. Vitus attributed to Jörg Syrlin the Younger, of Ulm, South Germany, which was exhibited in New York in 1968 (op. cit.). It also shares similar characteristics in terms of the facial expression and composition with a slightly earlier wood statue of St. George in the Victoria & Albert Museum (inv. no. A.26-1913), which is also attributed to the Ulm school.

Saint Florian is the patron saint of firefighters. According to legend he was born circa 250 A.D. in the ancient Roman city of Aelium Cetiumin, in Upper Austria, where he was a Roman citizen-soldier and general who also organised a local fire brigade. He was martyred (by drowning) when he refused to persecute Christians in the local district, for which he is venerated by the Catholic Church.
Provenance: Dr. Gustav Rau Collection, Germany
Related literature: C. Gómez-Moreno, 'Medieval Art from Private Collections', exh. cat. The Cloisters, New York, 1968, no. 63
Medium
Carved limewood
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