Adam Kraft was born in Nueremberg in the early fifteenth century and his work is a curious link between Gothic and Renaissance styles. His chief characteristic is expressed by P. J. Ree, who says: “The essence of his art is best described as a naive realism sustained by tender and warm religious zeal.” Adam Kraft carved the Stations of the Cross, to occupy, on the road to St. John’s Cemetery in Nueremberg, the same relative distances apart as those of the actual scenes between Pilate’s house and Golgotha. Easter Sepulchres were often enriched with very beautiful sculptures by the first masters. Adam Kraft carved the noble scene of the Burial of Christ in St. John’s churchyard in Nueremberg.
[Illustration: ST. LORENZ CHURCH, NUREMBERG, SHOWING ADAM KRAFT’S PYX, AND THE HANGING MEDALLION BY VEIT STOSS]
It is curious that the same mind and hand which conceived and carved these short stumpy figures, should have made the marvel of slim grace, the Tabernacle, or Pyx, at St. Lorenz. A figure of the artist kneeling, together with two workmen, one old and one young, supports the beautiful shrine, which rears itself in graduated stages to the tall Gothic roof, where it follows the curve of a rib, and turns over at the top exactly like some beautiful clinging plant departing from its support, and flowering into an exquisitely proportioned spiral. It suggests a gigantic crozier. Before it was known what a slender metal core followed this wonderful growth, on the inside, there was a tradition that Kraft had discovered “a wonderful method for softening and moulding hard stones.” The charming relief by Kraft on the Weighing Office exhibits quite another side of his genius; here three men are engaged in weighing a bale of goods in a pair of scales: a charming arrangement of proportion naturally grows out of this theme, which may have been a survival in the mind of the artist of his memory of the numerous tympana with the Judgment of Michael weighing souls. The design is most attractive, and the decorative feeling is enhanced by two coats of arms and a little Gothic tracery running across the top. When Adam Kraft died in 1508, the art of sculpture practically ceased in Nueremberg.
[Illustration: RELIEF BY ADAM KRAFT]
CARVING IN WOOD AND IVORY
If the Germans were somewhat less original than the French, English, and Italians in their stone carving, they made up for this deficiency by a very remarkable skill in wood carving. Being later, in period, this art was usually characterized by more naturalism than that of sculpture in stone.
In Germany the art of sculpture in wood is said to have been in full favour as early as the thirteenth century. There are two excellent wooden monuments, one at Laach erected to Count Palatine Henry III., who died in 1095, and another to Count Henry III. of Sayne, in 1246. The carving shows signs of the transition to Gothic forms. Large wooden crucifixes were carved in Germany in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Byzantine feeling is usual in these figures, which are frequently larger than life.