(b. ca. 1460, Osterode, d. 1531, Würzburg)

Noli me tangere

Parish Church, Münnerstadt

This is a detail of one of the wings of the now dismembered winged Münnerstadt altarpiece.

Riemenschneider’s retable for the parish church of Mary Magdalen in Münnerstadt, made between 1490 and 1492, serves as a touchstone for understanding his early oeuvre. It was one of the earliest carved altarpieces to be delivered uncoloured, but the absence of colour apparently proved disturbing, and in 1504-1505 the Nuremberg sculptor Veit Stoss painted and gilded it. (This colouring has now disappeared.)

The retable was dismantled between 1649 and 1653, and several sculptural elements, eventually found their way into public collections. In the early 1980s the parts of the altarpiece that remained in Münnerstadt were installed in a modern encasement to present them at the proper height and in the proper light. Copies of the dispersed sculpture were later added to the ensemble.

An extreme care is taken over details and treatment of the surface. The limewood is often left exposed and merely accented by a partial polychromy which brings out the subtlety of the polished volumes and emphasizes the finesse of the varied motifs barely chiseled on the surface of the wood. The process was used, in particular, for the altarpiece of Münnerstadt, afterwards painted by Veit Stoss between 1502 and 1504 (this colouring has now disappeared).