(c. 1450-1533)
Veit Stoss was either from the Black Forest town of Horb, in Swabia, or from one of several similarly named towns in Poland; judging from his subsequent career, the former seems more likely. He is first heard of as a sculptor in Nu­remberg in 1477, but from then until 1496 he worked in Cracow, both for the Polish king and for the prosperous German commercial community there. He returned to Nuremberg in 1496. Facing competition from other sculptors in stone and bronze, he found work as a woodcarver, becoming one of the great German masters of limewood sculpture.
Among Stoss's major works are the elaborate marble tomb of King Casimir IV Jagiello and a carved polychromed wooden winged retable decorated with scenes from the life of the Virgin, some forty feet high, at St. Mary's in Cracow (1477-89). At St. Lorenzkirche in Nuremberg is one of his most popular wooden sculptures, the suspended openwork carving of the Annunciation of the Rosary (1517-18), also polychromed. Later in his career, the unfinished limewood al-tarpiece in Bamberg Cathedral (1520-23) shows Stoss's response to the growing preference in Germany for unpainted wooden sculpture.
It was with both the Bamberg Cathedral altarpiece and the Annunciation of the Rosary that Stoss's career ran into trouble, for his son, Andreas, had origi­nally commissioned the former for the Carmelite monastery in Nuremberg, of which he was prior. Andreas, however, was strongly anti-Lutheran and was banished from the city in 1525 before the altarpiece was finished. It was moved to Bamberg in 1543. Meanwhile, in 1529 the Nuremberg town council declared the Annunciation of the Rosary a Marian cult figure and thus offensive to the Reformers; happily, they did not remove or destroy it, but ordered it covered. The fact that Anton Tucher, one of Nuremberg's most powerful citizens, had donated it to the city may have helped to preserve this fine work.
Veit Stoss, with Tilman Riemenschneider and others, represents the high point of the German limewood carvers in the period culminating in the Reformation. Of these sculptors, he also marks the transition from a polychrome to a natural finish in wood sculpture, but his style remained late Gothic, never taking the step into the world of the Italian Renaissance.
M. Baxandall, The Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany, 1980.
W. Stechow, ed., Northern Renaissance Art, 1400-1600: Sources and Documents, 1966.
Rosemary Poole

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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