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Saint Dominic (left) and Saint Catherine of Siena (right)

Erasmus Kern

Austrian (1592- after 1650)

Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine of Siena (c. 1608-1627)

Linden wood

Gift of Richard D. and Irene Quenzler Brown 2019.9.1 & 2


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Learn about wood as a medium and the process of carving this sculpture from a tree.

This pair of altarpiece sculptures were carved from linden wood (also known as limewood), which is prized for its softness, elasticity, and pale color. The material is primarily associated with sculptors working for churches in Austria, Bavaria, and other German-speaking parts of Europe beginning in the late Gothic period. Kern’s exuberant carvings adorned sacred spaces as part of an effort to revive the Catholic Church in response to the Protestant Reformation. These figures of Saints Dominic and Catherine were once components of a rosary altar in a church.  

While linden wood is relatively easy to carve, it is also less durable than other, harder woods used for sculpture during this period, including walnut and oak. Kern’s sculptures show evidence of breakage as well as past infestation from pests. Today we can still appreciate the sculptor's virtuosity, perhaps even more so than a period viewer; like the reliquary included in this gallery, the figures were originally gilded and painted. The lack of paint allows us to see the sculptor's hand more clearly.

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