Niclaus Gerhaert Back on Stage

The Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung will be presenting a major exhibition devoted to art from the Middle Ages, entitled “Niclaus Gerhaert. The Medieval Sculptor.” The Netherlander Niclaus Gerhaert von Leyden, who was likely born in Leyden around 1430, was first documented in Strasbourg in 1462, and died in Wiener Neustadt in 1473, is undoubtedly one of the most important and influential artists of the Late Gothic period. His works strike us for their amazing modernity and the lifelike quality of the figures. The small number of signed works and the scarcity of written documents make it difficult for scholars to reconstruct Gerhaert’s origins, career, and oeuvre. Yet the sculptor must already have enjoyed a high reputation during his lifetime, for even Emperor Frederick III sought to employ his services. For the first time, some seventy works have been compiled, twenty of which are by the hand of the master and his workshop. Loans are coming from renowned international collections.
It was within a short period of time that Niclaus von Gerhaert lastingly changed and influenced sculpture north of the Alps, first between the late 1450s and 1467 from Strasbourg and then, until his death in 1473, from Wiener Neustadt, his impact making itself felt over several generations. There is hardly any reliable data about the artist’s life. It is assumed that he was born in Leyden in the Netherlands around 1430. Information about his years as an apprentice and journeyman are lacking entirely. Some clues suggest that he sojourned in Burgundy and in the Southern Netherlands or Northern France, where Gerhaert seems to have gained formative experience as an artist. Although we do know that Gerhaert worked in both stone and wood, the uncontested works that have come down to us are exclusively stone sculptures. This exhibition offers an unprecedented opportunity of actually juxtaposing secured works by Gerhaert with works by his circle and his followers, thereby putting hypotheses voiced by recent and latest research to the test.