CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Call for Papers: Unravelling the Anonymous Masters in the Rhine Meuse Region ca. 1500-1550 (Ghent, 24-26 May 2018)

Over the past two decades the interest for painters of the sixteenth century steadily increased. To a much lesser degree, the interest in wood sculpture also increased, which is underlined by research and exhibitions on for instance Tilman Riemenschneider (1999-2000), Jan van Steffeswert (2000), Nicolaus Gerhardt (2011), Jan Borman (forthcoming 2019) and the so-called “Master of Elsloo” (2013, and forthcoming 2019). The latter stands out, because it deals rather with an artistic phenomenon than an individual sculptor. The phenomenon can be observed over the span of half a century, radiating from Dutch South Limburg across the present day Belgium and German borders.

The Master of Elsloo was “baptised” in 1940, after a wooden statue of The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, then and now in the village of Elsloo in South Limburg. However, this location was not the historic one, which was supposedly the city of Roermond in the same region, also the presumed residence of the statue’s sculptor. Ever since the “Elsloo-group” grew up to 200 sculptures, engulfing anonymous wood sculptors from the surrounding area, such as the Master of Neeroeteren, the Master of Siersdorf and the Master of Beek. Hardly without any exceptions the sculptures are (semi) freestanding religious figures or figure groups in a – compared to developments in cities in Brabant and elsewhere – old fashioned manner. Until now, not one single artwork in this group could be connected to written documents or a documented sculptor, and just one work is securely dated (1523).

Recently, the works in nowadays Belgium, have been studied most thoroughly, with an emphasis on technical aspects (published 2013). Currently, the Bonnefantenmuseum is undertaking technical, archival and stylistic research into the group of works that can be found in the Netherlands and Germany, which will result in an exhibition in 2019. In doing so, we came across, and will be coming across, practical, heuristic and methodological questions, which we would like to address in a wider context than the Master of Elsloo alone. We therefore invite papers dealing with technical, stylistic, and/ or historiographical questions relating to sculpture between circa 1500-1550 in Northern Europe, with a special interest in papers dealing with wood sculpture.

Contributions may address, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • In what way does the workshop practice and the division of labour in a sculptor’s workshop differ from the somewhat better analysed workshop practice in a painters’ shop?
  • The mobility of sculptors or stylistic motives within artistic regions and transregional. How do guilds, wander years and patrons influence mobility?
  • The adaption of new (i.e. renaissance or Italianate) motifs in wood sculpture in comparison to stone sculpture and painting. Does this differ per region? Which transition styles are visible (Kavaler coined the term Renaissance Gothic). Can we separate developments in sculpture from those in painting in Northern Europe?
  • How is the choice of material (wood, alabaster, copper etc.) determined by costs, location, subject etc.?
  • Is, by absence of other means such as archival or technical evidence, connoisseurship alone a valid tool for attributing wood sculpture to one single hand or workshop?

We invite scholars, curators, young researchers and doctoral students to submit abstracts in English of no more than 250 words plus a short bio of maximal 100 words no later than Sunday 4 June 2017 to and

The session is organized by:
Cynthia Osiecki who currently works as scientific assistant at the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht and is a PhD candidate at Greifswald University (since 2013).
Lars Hendrikman, the curator of old master painting and sculpture in the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht (since 2006).