This summer a magnificient exhibition in Naumburg in Germany showcases the works of one of the most outstanding Gothic sculptors and architects: The Naumburger Meister. We don’t know his name, nor much about his whereabouts; only rumours abound. However, untill now he was thought of as the epiphenomena of a “German Artist” – emotional, heartbreakingly romantic and authentic in every sense. So much so that his sculpture of one of the founders of the Naumburg Cathedral,Uta von Ballenstedt became the archetype of a German Nazi Hausfrau; and as a derivation of this, the prototype for evil queens, aka the evil stepmother of Snow White in Disneys film from 1937.
However, The Naumburg Master was not German, but French. In the German reviews of the current exhibition, this somewhat amusing detail is deemed one of the remarkable new results of the scholarship behind the show. By the way copiously published in a two volume catalogue covering every possible detail in 1568 pages.
Much more interesting though is the possibility at the exhibition to uncover the artistic context of this Gothic artist par excellence. His world was undoubtedly neither German, nor French nor English, but belonged to an international artistic “school” operating on all levels; and thus visible not only in the sculpture exhibited, but also in the stained glass paintings and illuminated manuscripts dating from this period, which are allowed to frame the master.
This is interestingt. As may be detected from the sculptures in the Cathedral of Naumburg they were for instance painted in vivid cultures at the time of their launching. By now we are very well aquainted with the fact, that the white sculptures of antiquity was painted decorously. We tend, however, to forget that this was also the case with the sculptures in the Gothic Age. Recently – at the celebration of the 800 year of the Reims Cathedral – this was recreated in a typical French fashion. With “son et lumiere” it was shown how the sculptures of the facade may have looked originally. Here at the exhibition it is once again documented, that the Middle ages was far from bleak.
Much of this and much more is documented in detail at the exhibition, which really is “worth a detour” this summer.
Official webpage of exhibition
See video here (in french)