VISCHER, the name of a family of Nuremberg sculptors, who contributed largely to the masterpieces of German art in the 15th and 16th centuries.
1. Hermann, the elder, came to Nuremberg as a worker in brass in 1453 and there became a "master" of his gild. There is only one work that can be ascribed to him with certainty, the baptismal font in the parish church of Wittenberg (1457). This is decorated with figures of the Apostles.
2. His son, Peter, the elder, was born about 1455 in Nuremberg, where he died on the 7th of January 1529. He became "master" in 1489, and in 1494 was summoned by the Electoral Prince Philipp of the Palatinate to Heidelberg. He soon returned, however, to Nuremberg, where he worked with the help of his five sons, Hermann, Peter, Hans, Jakob and Paul. His works are: the tomb of Bishop Johannes IV., in the Breslau cathedral (1496); the tomb of Archbishop Ernest, in Magdeburg cathedral (1497); the shrine of Saint Sebald in the Sebalduskirche at Nuremberg, between 1508 and 1519; a large grille ordered by the Fugger brothers in Augsburg (lost); a relief of the "Crowning of the Blessed Virgin"; in the Erfurt cathedral (a second example in the Wittenberg Schlosskirche, 1521); the tombstones for Margareta Tucherin in the Regensburg cathedral (1521), and for the Eisen family in the Ägidienkirche at Nuremberg (1522); the epitaph for the cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg in the collegiate church at Aschaffenburg (1525); the tomb of the electoral prince Frederick the Wise in the Schlosskirche at Wittenberg (1521); the epitaph of the duchess Helene of Mecklenburg in the cathedral at Schwerin. Besides these works there are a number of others ascribed to Peter the elder with less certainty. In technique few bronze sculptors have ever equalled him, but his designs are marred by an excess of mannered realism and a too exuberant fancy. His chief early work, the tomb of Archbishop Ernest in Magdeburg cathedral (1495), is surrounded with fine statuettes of the Apostles under semi-Gothic canopies; it is purer in style than the magnificent shrine of St Sebald, a tall canopied bronze structure, crowded with reliefs and statuettes in the most lavish way. The general form of the shrine is Gothic, but the details are those of the 16th-century Italian Renaissance treated with much freedom and originality. Some of the statuettes of saints attached to the slender columns of the canopy are modelled with much grace and even dignity of form. A small portrait figure of Peter himself, introduced at one end of the base, is a marvel of clever realism: he has represented himself as a stout, bearded man, wearing a large leathern apron and holding some of the tools of his craft. This gorgeous shrine is a remarkable example of the uncommercial spirit which animated the artists of that time, and of the evident delight which they took in their work. Dragons, grotesques and little figures of boys, mixed with graceful scroll foliage, crowd every possible part of the canopy and its shafts, designed in the most free and unconventional way and executed with an utter disregard of the time and labour which were lavished on them.
See R. Bauer, Peter Vischer und das alte Nürnberg (1886); C. Headlam, Peter Vischer (1901).
- This great work is really a canopied pedestal to support and enclose the shrine, not the shrine itself, which is a work of the 14th century, having the gabled form commonly used in the middle ages for metal reliquaries.