Man of Sorrows
Leonhard Kern

Southern Germany or Italy
ca. 1614

Alabaster, traces of old gilding
Height 36.5 cm



The Swabian sculptor Leonhard Kern was an important artist of the early Baroque period. He travelled to Italy in 1609 and returned to Germany in 1614, settling soon afterwards in Schwäbisch Hall. He probably chose to live there because the Imperial free cities were considered safe locations during the Thirty Years’ War. Kern worked almost exclusively for collectors, in other words for the cabinets of curiosities belonging to princes and wealthy burghers. Most of his work accordingly consists of small sculptures; ivory and wood were his chief materials, but he also worked in alabaster, stone and bronze.

The alabaster relief in the possession of the Liebieghaus shows the Resurrected Christ between two youthful angels, with small flying putti worshipping him. The Saviour is raising one hand in benediction and pointing to his stigmata. The work probably dates from Kern’s sojourn of several years in Italy, or shortly afterwards. His knowledge of classical and contemporary works, for instance Michelangelo’s “Risen Christ” (1520), is demonstrated in particular by the almost athletic bodies of Christ and the young angels.

The small flying angels, on the other hand, point forward to the repertoire of types which Kern would develop—and for which he would become known—in the following years: realistically rendered children of hearty physique and a somewhat sullen air. Characteristic works of that kind by Kern are also represented in the Liebieghaus by a “Bathing Scene” and two small figures of boys—one a little boy marching, the other giving a friend a piggyback ride.