Saints Christopher, Eustace, and Erasmus (Three Helper Saints)
Tilman Riemenschneider (German, 1460–1531)
Made in Würzburg, Germany
Overall: 21 x 13 x 4 3/4 in. (53.3 x 33 x 12.1 cm)
The Cloisters Collection, 1961
On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 20
The figures in this relief represent three of the fourteen Helper Saints, venerated as a group since the early 1300s. They became particularly popular in the south of Germany after 1446, when it was believed they appeared in a vision to a shepherd in Upper Franconia. Represented here are Saint Christopher carrying the Christ Child; Saint Eustace, a general in Trajan’s army who converted to Christianity; and Saint Erasmus, a Syrian bishop in episcopal regalia. The figures are carved from a single piece of limewood, with an added piece giving additional depth to Saint Christopher. The overlapping of figures allowed the three or four groups of saints to be joined with no apparent seam and also created a sense of great depth. The meticulous carving and small scale suggest that the original group was an independent relief in a niche or a shrine. Although Saint Christopher looks to the left, the general movement of the figures is to the right, indicating that this piece was originally at the left side of the relief. The finely carved details and the decorative punch work, all of which would have been obscured by a layer of paint, are evidence that the sculpture was never intended to be painted.
Lord Delamere, United Kingdom ; Dr. George Saint (d. 1957), Cheadle, Staffordshire (by 1951) ; Mary Saint, Cheadle, Staffordshire (1957-1960) ; [ Sotheby's, London(sold October 14, 1960)] ; [ Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York (sold 1961)]
"Riemenschneider's Helpers in Need." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 21, no. 10 (June 1963). pp. 317-326, fig. 3, 5-6.
Ostoia, Vera K. The Middle Ages: Treasures from the Cloisters and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1969. no. 105, pp. 222-223, 261.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries. New York: Dutton Publishing, 1970. no. 173, p. 191.
Deuchler, Florens. "The Cloisters: ein Museum für mittelalterliche Kunst in New York." Du 32, no. 2 (1972). p. 140.
Nostitz, Charles E. von. "Two Unpolychromed Riemenschneiders at The Cloisters." Metropolitan Museum Journal 10 (1975). pp. 51-61, fig. 1, 5, 10.
Husband, Timothy B., and Charles T. Little. Europe in the Middle Ages. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. no. 139, pp. 150-151.
Pushkin Museum and State Hermitage Museum. Dekorativno-prikladnoe iskusstvo ot pozdneĭ antichnosti do pozdneĭ gotiki: Iz sobraniĭ muze︠i︡a Metropoliten, Nʹ︠i︡u Ĭork i Khudozhestvennogo Instituta, Chikago. Moscow: Pushkin Museum, 1990. no. 72, p. 13.
State Hermitage Museum. Dekorativno-prikladnoe iskusstvo ot pozdneĭ antichnosti do pozdneĭ gotiki. St. Petersburg: State Hermitage Museum, 1990. no. 72, pp. 150-151.
Kalden-Rosenfeld, Iris. Tilman Riemenschneider: The Sculptor and His Workshop. Königstein im Taunus: Karl Robert Langewiesche Nachfolger, 2004. no. 22, pp. 128–29, fig. 178.