The Evangelists Matthew and John
Christian Jorhan the Elder

ca. 1770

Limewood, original polychromy
Height 93 and 91 cm



Christian Jorhan the Elder, who had trained alongside Franz Ignaz Günther (1725–1775) and Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (1736–1783) under the Munich Rococo sculptor Johann Baptist Straub (1704–1784), was one of the most important Bavarian sculptors of his day. Especially in his place of residence, Landshut, but also throughout the whole of Lower Bavaria, he provided a large number of churches with sculptural decoration of exceptional quality.

His workshop also produced great numbers of busts of saints on pedestals with rocaille ornaments—decorative elements in the form of seashells and scrolls that were extraordinarily popular in the Rococo period. Jorhan’s busts of saints include several cycles of the four Evangelists. The two Evangelists in the Liebieghaus, Matthew and John, have companion pieces—Mark and Luke—now in Berlin and Oxford. They were all probably intended for the high altar of the pilgrimage church of Maria Thalheim in Landshut.

The two half-length figures rest on three-footed pedestals; the ecorative spiral scroll on the front of each pedestal bears the symbol of the Evangelist in question. Each figure holds an open book in his hands. The beardless John points to a passage of text with his index finger, while Matthew appears immersed in his reading. The gilded garments generously draped around the figures are decoratively carved to imitate precious brocades. They form a striking contrast to the pale, pastel-coloured areas of bare skin. Compared to the strong emotionalism of Baroque sculpture, these busts have a simpler, introspective quality that can perhaps be described as raptly lyrical.