These three ivory figures once surrounded a cross bearing the figure of Christ. Mary Magdalena kneels at its foot, Mary the mother of Jesus looks up a her son and John the Baptist directs the spectator's attention 10 the event. One further figure - like the cross, now lost -once stood behind Mary Magdalena and supported her. In the centre of the curved socle, an ivory appliqué showing the sudarium of St. Veronica provides a reminder of the Passion. Little of the ivory work by Matthias Steinl has survived; even though, as a sculptor and architect, he was one of the most outstanding personalities of the Austrian Baroque. This piece, which is signed STEINLE, is imposing despite its fragmentary form. It is worth bearing in mind that the height of the socle has been calculated for the missing crucifix. Steinl probably made it in Breslau, that is, before coming 10 Vienna in 1688 to enter the service of Emperor Leopold I as court ivory carver with an annuity of 500 gulden. The statuettes, whose gestures express a certain measured pathos, reveal the master's familiarity with classical monumental sculpture. The differentiation of the standing and trailing legs reinforces the accentuated contrapposto, as a result of which the drapery is wrapped around the bodies in deeply incised folds, thus creating a lively zone of light and shadow.
Walrosszahn, Hartholz, schwarz gebeizt
H. 45 cm
Sockel: H. 23 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Geistliche Schatzkammer
Schatzkammer, GS E 45
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