The sculptor Nicolaus van Leyden (c. 1430-1473) is considered to be one of the most important late 15th century artists north of the Alps, responsible for decisive innovations in both form and iconography. He was widely renowned in his lifetime for the modernity of his works and particularly for his skill in rendering facial traits. His importance was recognized essentially in the German-speaking areas of Europe, where he influenced the development of such widely famed sculptors as Veit Stoss, Michel Erhart or Tilman Riemenschneider. His work, however, is almost unknown to the general public and his background, career and output are shrouded in mystery, there being few extant works or written sources.
Nicolaus van Leyden's European career included a notable period spent in Strasbourg between 1462 and 1467. He there executed several substantial works, in particular the epitaph for Canon Conrad of Bussnang in the St John Chapel of the Cathedral (signed and dated 1464) and especially the Great Door of the Chancellery, a building which, apart from a few fragments, has not survived.
This is the first exhibition wholly devoted to Nicolaus van Leyden and it has been organized in collaboration with the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung Museum in Frankfurt, where it is on display from 27th October 2011 to 4th March 2012. It includes part of the artist's work in wood and stone, among which are four sandstone busts of male figures in the keeping of the Œuvre Notre-Dame Museum in Strasbourg, including the celebrated melancholy Man leaning on his elbow. In particular, the exhibition bring together for the first time since the 19th century the two surviving fragments of the Strasbourg Chancellery portal decor, the Head of a bearded man,likewise belonging to the Œuvre Notre-Dame Museum, and its pendant, Head of a young woman, held by the museum in Frankfurt.
The exhibition brings together some 70 works, executed using various techniques and materials, from public and private collections in Europe and America, in particular Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, New York and Chicago. It is being held in the Œuvre Notre-Dame Museum, the exhibition rooms of which have been specially fitted out for the occasion.
Cécile Dupeux, curator of the Œuvre Notre-Dame Museum
Roland Recht, professor at the Collège de France
Stefan Roller, curator at the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung Museum in Frankfurt