The Samson-Master was one of the most outstanding Romanesque sculptors in the Rhineland during the early 13th century.
In 1925, the otherwise unknown artist was named after the stone sculpture of Samson which he found found in the lapidary of Benedictine abbey of Maria Laach. This figure, consisting of a head and a torso, depicts a decisive youth with long hair, who is wrestling a heavily damaged lion. His head is affixed to a console ornamented with large leaves and grapes. It is not known precisely where the statue was initially placed in the Abbey Church or Cloister, but some art historians have proposed that the figure was part of a stone ambo.
The same artist (or artisans from his workshop) is believed to have been responsible for the ornamentation of the porch of the Abbey church, known as the Paradise Portal. At the exhibition, two capitals are exhibited. One shows two composite figures – half dragons, half humans – tearing at the hair of each other. Next to the wrestlers is a small devil writing down the sin committed by the demons. On the other capitals, mythical faces and dragons are entwined in foliage.
The Samson Master was active in the region of the Lower – and Middle Rhine between 1190 and 1220, and the exhibition also shows a collection of related sculptures from the wider region such as the two figures of a writing angel and a devil, on loan from the Bonner Münsters. Intended as choir stalls, they were carefully poised to take note of the more or less commendable conduct of the 13th-century monks or nuns taking part in the daily liturgies. They belong to a group of stylistically related Rhenish stone sculptures, found in churches in the region stretched out between Brauweiler and Andernach. He is known to have worked in Cologne between 1208 – 10 and 1200 -1210 at Maria Laach,
For the first time in decades, the original Samson figure and the capitals from the Paradise portal are exhibited. At the Maria Laach Abbey, copies have long since replaced the original stone sculptures, which have been kept n a store room.
This spotlight exhibition in the Museum Schnütgen offers visitors the unique opportunity to take a closer look at the sculptural work, which gave the master sculptor his name. But also the capitals and other pieces associated with him are exhibited. The finely worked double capitals in the Cathedral Treasury of Cologne with their fanciful decoration are particularly related to the capitals from Maria Laach. Alongside the works exhibited in the Museum Schnütgen, they display the diversity and expressiveness of Romanesque stone sculpture in the Rhineland.
The exhibition is organised in cooperation with the Cologne Cathedral Treasury, where visitors may experience examples of the Samson Master’s work in Cologne.
The Samson-Master and his age. Romanesque sculpture in the Rhineland
01.04.2019 – 30.06.2019
Der Samsonmeister und seine Zeit. Skulptur der Romanik im Rheinland.
Katalog zur Ausstellung, 6. Juni 2018 – 30. June 2019.
Ed. by Karen Straub und Adam Stead, Köln 2018
The catalogue is available at the museum shop for 14.80 € and can also be ordered online by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is also possible to download a small brochure in the form of a pdf