VISCHER, Peter the Elder
(b. ca. 1460, Nürnberg, d. 1529, Nürnberg)

Tomb of Maximilian I: King Arthur

c. 1513
Bronze, height 215 cm
Hofkirche, Innsbruck

In spite of the many concessions to the new spirit which was spreading across Europe at that time, Germany in the 16th century did not break with the medieval tradition. The native tendencies, given free play in the late Gothic style, were an excess of naturalism, sculptural dynamism and the thirst for expression, which were in complete contrast to the idealism, the sense of balance and the taste for harmony extolled by the neo-Platonists of the Renaissance. In many aspects Germany therefore remained faithful to the aesthetics and philosophy of the Middle Ages.

Significant in this respect was the attitude of the first Habsburgs to whom the Empire owed the revival of the old Germanic dream of universal monarchy. Maximilian, who was too impecunious to establish in stone the evidence of his glory, left to the engravers the task of celebrating his glorious deeds and illustrating his allegorical writing, completely imbued with past chivalry; his love of heroic chronicles permeates, too, the proud statues of the legendary kings of Theodoric the Goth and Arthur of Britain, figures cast in bronze by Vischer the Elder in the Venetian manner, during the Emperor's lifetime, to mount guard with his ancestors around his tomb at Innsbruck.

Although other artists acted as the principal bronze casters of life-sized ancestor figures for the unfinished, massive tomb ensemble of Emperor Maximilian I (d. 1519), Peter Vischer and his workshop produced two of the most striking figures, King Arthur and King Theodoric.