Attributed to the workshop of Hans Klocker (Brixen, South Tyrol, fl. circa 1474- 1500), a carved and polychrome painted head of a Bishop Saint, last quarter 15th century, possibly representing St Willibald, the subject portrayed facing forward, with cropped hair and wearing a mitre, mounted to a later velvet-covered plinth, approximately 41cm high excluding plinth, 58cm high overall
Provenance: acquired by the present owner from Daniel Katz, London
Published: Daniel Katz, European Sculpture, London, 2004, illustrated p. 27.
The present bust, with its idiosyncratic yet precisely carved features, bears strong similarities to works by Tyrolean sculptor Hans Klocker, who was active in present day Bressanone, Italy, and whose known commissions include the high altars at St Leonhard in Passíria, and the church of the Assumption in Cáldaro. Klocker's attention to naturalism was praised as early as 1482, when the Bishop of Brixen described him as 'highly renowned for the faithfulness and artistry of his work'.
Related examples include the busts of Bishop Saints in the collection of the Museum of the Diocese of Brixen, which portray the subjects wearing mitres with elaborately tooled grounds similar to the one in this lot. The mitre of the Blixen museum busts painted with coloured stones. The circular apertures to the strapwork on the headdress of the present sitter suggest that the mitre of the present lot may once also have been adorned.
The slender features, large almond-shaped eyes and hairstyle also show similarities to the full-length figure of St Leonard attributed to Klocker, previously in the collection of Prof. Dr. Rudolf Leopold, Vienna.
Comparisons between the present bust and the figure of a Saint exhibited at the Louvre in 1991-2 have also been drawn, and a similar bust of an abbot saint in the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection is known. Both are noted in Sophie Guillot de Suduiraut, Sculptures allemandes de la fin du Moyen âge: dans les collections publiques françaises : 1400-1530, 1991, p. 152.
A model of a monastic Saint attributed to Klocker, with similar stylistic attributes, was sold at Sotheby's New York, 27 January 2011, lot 387, $37,500 including premium.
Comparative literature: R. Kahsnitz, Carved Splendor: Late Gothic Altarpieces in Southern Germany, Austria, and South Tirol, Munich, 2005, p. 212.