The Zürn family was among the most important and productive families of sculptors in southern Germany and Upper Austria, during the late 16th century and first half of the 17th century. Specializing in religious art - mostly wood carving - for Catholic churches in the area, the family benefited from the campaign of Catholic Counter-Reformation Art, instigated by the Council of Trent (1545-63), which involved the building or renovation of numerous churches, minsters and cathedrals throughout Austria and Bavaria, many of which required carved altarpieces, statues, choir-stalls, confessionals and other woodwork. Even the most functional furnishings were generally decorated with relief sculpture and other types of carving, mostly executed in the flamboyant Baroque style.
Hans Zürn the Elder (1555/60-after 1631) had six sons, all of whom became sculptors. No documented work of his has survived, but on the basis of his presumed contribution to the high altar in Überlingen Minster, an attractive Crucifix (Wangen, Kapelle am Isnyer Tor) and a bust of St Jacob (Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum) have been attributed to him. He frequently collaborated with his sons, the most prominent of these was Jörg Zürn of Überlingen (1583/84-1635/38), whose masterpiece was the five-storey Mannerist high altar in Überlingen Minster. Hans Zürn the Younger (1585/90-after 1624) is recorded as a master sculptor in Buchhorn am Bodensee (now Friedrichshafen) in 1613; his only securely attributed work is the wooden altar of the Virgin in St Martin, Wangen.
Martin Zürn (1585/90-after 1665) and his younger brothers, Michael, Hans Jakob (active 1617-35) and David (1598-1666), settled in the Inn Valley in eastern Bavaria and Upper Austria and are chiefly known for the altars they carved for many of the churches of that region. The third and fourth generations of the Zürn family, the sons and grandsons of David Zürn, continued to be active in Wasserburg am Inn, Passau and Olomouc in Moravia into the early 18th century.