Noteworthy among the polychrome sculpture in the exhibition is a group of four figures—two works representing deacons, lent by the Cleveland Museum of Art, and two of female saints, from the collection of the Historisches Museum in Frankfurt am Main—thought to have been carved for the same altarpiece. Other figures that once belonged to the same ensembles but have long since been dispersed are also on view: among the most notable are two groups from a monumental altarpiece depicting the Holy Kinship (the family of the Virgin Mary), lent by the Württembergisches Landesmuseum, Stuttgart, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The display of two virtually unpublished Female Saints in private collections, shown with a third figure from the same retable (altarpiece), a Saint Elizabeth, now in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, is a revelation.
The Skulpturensammlung of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin agreed to the unprecedented loan of twelve key works, including such masterpieces as the Noli me Tangere and the Evangelists (Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint Luke, and Saint John) from Riemenschneider's Münnerstadt altarpiece (1490–1492). Four works from the permanent collection of the Metropolitan—among them the limewood Seated Bishop, a striking depiction of the physiognomy of an old man—are also on view.
The broad range of Riemenschneider's artistic production is illustrated by elements from altarpieces, cult figures, objects of private devotion, sculpture with a secular function, and models he carved for assistants.
Like other great sculptors of the late Middle Ages, Riemenschneider was proficient in a variety of materials—wood as well as stone. The impressive Enthroned Saint Anne with the Virgin and Child ("Anna Selbdritt"), lent by the Mainfränkisches Museum, Würzburg, bears eloquent witness to the sculptor's mastery of sandstone sculpture. The exhibition also reunites Riemenschneider's five extant carvings in alabaster, exquisite works that are relatively little known.
To place Riemenschneider's achievements within a broader context, the exhibition also includes several particularly fine works by his most important predecessors. Riemenschneider's conception of sculpture as a "kinetic" experience—in which the viewer is drawn to move around the work either physically or with the mind's eye—derived from Niclaus Gerhaert von Leiden (active 1460–73, died 1473) of Strasbourg, who is represented in the exhibition by an exquisite boxwood carving of the Standing Virgin and Child, from the collection of the Metropolitan. The introspective, almost elegiac, quality of Riemenschneider's work, on the other hand, can be drawn from Michel Erhart (ca. 1440–1522) of Ulm, and from Ulm sculpture in general, as exemplified by the countenance and pose of Erhart's tender and pensive Seated Virgin and Child, from the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Skulturensammlung. Riemenschneider's intimate familiarity with the work of engraver Martin Schongauer (1445 or 1450–1491) is apparent in the rich tonal range of his sculpture, as demonstrated in the exhibition by the juxtapostion to several works on paper, from the collection of the Metropolitan.