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A History of Art for Beginners and Students

With the statue of Vischer himself


architecture of this remarkable work is of the richest style of Gothic, and the whole of it is in bronze, except that the oaken sarcophagus is encased in silver plates. This rests beneath a fret-work canopy supported on slender pillars. There is an abundance of ornament everywhere, but the close examination of its detail shows beauty and fitness in every part. For example, if we compare the statue of the saint, of which we have spoken, which stands at the end of the shrine most exposed, with the statue of Vischer himself, which is at the opposite end, we shall see how the saint, with his symbols and his flowing drapery, is an ideal work, and seems to be advancing with authority and the air which befits the son of a king, while Vischer, with his round cap, leather apron, and German face, is simply the representation of a worker bent upon doing his best (Fig. 95).

[Illustration: FIG. 95.--PETER VISCHER'S STATUE.]

The sarcophagus rests upon a base on which are four reliefs of scenes from the life of the saint, all in the purest manner of the time. One of these represents the burning of the icicles recounted above (Fig. 96).

This base and sarcophagus and the fret-work above it form the centre of the tomb. Then outside of this are eight pillars supporting a baldachin, or canopy, in the richly ornamented Romanesque style, and the combinations of the Gothic and the decorative architecture

are so skilfully made as not to offend our taste. But it is generally acknowledged that the chief beauty of this work is the series of the figures of the apostles, which are upon the pillars. They are slender in proportion, gracefully draped, and bear their distinctive symbols. They are perfectly free from the realism of the earlier works of Vischer, and have more of the purity and nobleness of the works of Ghiberti than are seen in the statues of any other German artist of this age (Figs. 97, 98).

[Illustration: FIG. 96.--ST. SEBALD AND THE BURNING ICICLES. _Vischer._]

Above the apostles are figures of prophets and other Biblical personages; Perseus and Hercules are also represented, and other statues typify Strength, Justice, Prudence, and Moderation. The figure of the Infant Christ is upon the centre of the highest, or middle dome. Between the pillars at their bases stand graceful candelabra, and the base itself rests upon snails. Besides all these principal figures there are almost numberless others and many ornamental designs. There are harpies, sirens, satyrs, fawns, and all sorts of fantastic creatures. The whole work is full of the deep feeling of the north and the beauty and richness of the south, and is a most remarkable production.

We are told that Vischer was but poorly paid for this labor, with all its thought and skill. He inscribed upon it these words: "... He completed it for the praise of God Almighty alone, and for the honor of St. Sebald, Prince of Heaven, by the aid of pious persons, paid by their voluntary contributions." There is a satisfaction in remembering that Vischer lived ten years after this tomb was completed, and must have heard many praises of his work.

The later works of Vischer were a few reliefs and two important monuments at Aschaffenburg and Wittenberg. His sons Hans and Hermann executed a few monuments, which are done in the manner of their father, but do not equal him in design or finish. There are numerous works which must be regarded as productions of Vischer's studio and foundry of which we cannot give clear accounts, not knowing whether they were the earlier works of the father, or were executed by the sons or other pupils, of which he had many.

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