Crucifixion Altar from Rimini
Master of the Rimini-Altar

Southern Netherlands or Northern France
ca. 1430

Alabaster, traces of old polychromy
Height 350 cm (Altar display)

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In 1913, a spectacular purchase was made for the Liebieghaus: the Rimini Altar. It earned that adjective not only on account of its high artistic quality, but also because it was one of the most extensive and best-preserved figural ensembles made of alabaster, a type of usually whitish gypsum that is dense but nevertheless relatively easy to work with.

The centre of the ensemble is a scene of Christ’s crucifixion with a number of figures worked from several blocks. That group is flanked by six apostles on each side. The fully three-dimensional and once partially polychrome sculptures were part of an altarpiece in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Rimini. Yet were they produced not in Italy, but in an export-oriented workshop specializing in alabaster in the Southern Netherlands (Bruges)?

The highly idealized sculptures of around 1430 are still largely in keeping with the characteristics of the Beautiful style, also referred to as the International Style because it was found throughout Europe. Without this general stylistic consensus it would scarcely have been conceivable for works of art to be disseminated to the extent they evidently were. The Rimini Master and his workshop represent this style at the highest level of artistic quality and craftsmanship. At the same time, we can detect in it virtually no trace of the new art introduced at the time by the master of Flémalle, Jan van Eyck, and others. The few realistic-looking motifs are not the product of a heightened interest in the observation of nature and its precise reproduction—as found in the works of the so-called ars nova painter generation active at the time—, but of bold exaggeration and emphatic expressiveness. The figures thus still adhere to artistic aspriations of the period around 1400. In terms of motif, however, there are isolated signs of an awareness of the art of ars nova.

Currently, following extensive conservation, the Rimini Altarpiece (c. 1430) is once again on view in the exhibition ‘THE RIMINI MISSION’. Over the past four years, a wide range of conservation measures have been carried out on the Rimini Altarpiece. The restoration project of the Rimini Altarpiece is supported by the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung within the framework of “Kunst auf Lager”.