The Bamberg Rider: Studies of Mediaeval German Sculpture

By W. R. Valentiner | Go to book overview

Many names have been proposed for the Bamberg Rider, the greatest mediaeval equestrian statue still in existence. In the present work I try to show that it is an allegorical representation of the worldly ruler of the time in which it was created, that of Frederick II. This does not mean that it should be regarded as an outspoken likeness of the Emperor. Realistic portraits in the modern sense did not exist at this period, although some characteristic traits of the person represented may have been incorporated with their symbolic representation.

The reasons for this hypothesis are the facts (which have not heretofore been sufficiently considered) that Frederick II was the patron of Bamberg Cathedral and the friend of the Bishop who built it, that he contributed considerably to the building fund, that he was in Germany at the probable time when the Bamberg Rider was executed, and that he was either directly or indirectly instrumental in the creation -- at the same time -- of the allegorical representations of the worldly ruler on the faqade of the famous doorway at Capua. These allegorical representations should be related, not in style but in content to similar ones on the church façades at Bamberg and at Strasbourg. The contemporary representation of the Rex Justus at the south portal of Strasbourg Cathedral was destroyed during the French revolution, but it is known from engravings and a modern reconstruction. It was executed near Frederick's residence at the time of his stay in Germany. The allegorical sculptures at Capua, Bamberg, and Strasbourg should be considered as one connected complex, of which the individual members are separated only by the differences of style due to the different origin and character of the sculptors who worked on these monuments -- that is Italian-Byzantines in Capua, Germans at Bamberg, and Frenchmen or French-influenced Germans at Strasbourg. The difference in the likenesses of the Emperor, if such was ever intended, is caused by the different conceptions of Northern and Southern sculptors as we shall see.

Before we can understand the problem of the equestrian statue itself, the group of outstanding sculptures at Bamberg to which the Rider belongs must be studied first as a whole, second in their relation to the architecture of the Cathedral, and third as the works of individual masters.

By far the best biography of Frederick is that of E. Kantorowicz ( Berlin 1925, English ed. 1931), although somewhat influenced by the wave of rising nationalism -- before it took its worst turn -- in Germany in the twenties; Kantorowicz cannot be placed with the earlier national-

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The Bamberg Rider: Studies of Mediaeval German Sculpture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page ii
  • Table of Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • I. Political Implications 5
  • Ii: French and German Cathedrals 12
  • Iii: the Cathedral at Bamberg 20
  • Iv: the Master of the Screen Reliefs 39
  • V: the Younger Workshop 56
  • Vi: the Younger Workshop 81
  • Vii: Ekbert of Bamberg, Albrecht of Magdeburg 98
  • Viii: the Bamberg Rider 116
  • Ix: the Mediaeval Conception of Life. 139
  • Notes 150
  • Selected Bibliography 158
  • Index 161
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