Sculpture from the Elsloo Group in England

Woods, Kim (2013). Sculpture from the Elsloo Group in England. In: A Masterly Hand: Interdisciplinary Research on the Late-Medieval Sculptor Master of Elsloo in an International Perspective, Scientia Artis, Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage, pp. 148–161.



Scholarship on the so-called Master of Elsloo has so far tended to focus on the mystery surrounding his identity or identities, the uncertain geographical location of the workshop(s), the problems surrounding the attribution of the surviving work to a primary Elsloo workshop or a series of satellite workshops, and most recently on detailed technical analysis. The sculptors' patronage base has attracted rather less attention. The large number of surviving sculptures associated with the "Master of Elsloo" demonstrates the importance of this workshop, or workshops, to customers in Guelders and in the Limburg and Meuse region. Because of the distribution and character of the work still in the Guelders and Limburg area, it is tempting to classify the Elsloo sculptors as essentially local craftsmen undertaking relatively routine ecclesiastical commission. This would be a mistake, however, and it is the carvings now in England that demonstrate this most incisively. There are no fewer than five Elsloo-attributed works in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, an altarpiece scene at Audley End, and another work of sculpture in the Walker Art Gallery in in Liverpool (fig.7.1). This in itself testifies to the foresightedness of English dealers and clients: the first significant exhibition of work associated with the Master of Elsloo was in 1974, but English collectors evidently valued this sculpture as early as the 1830s and 1840s. Three of these sculptures are reinterpreted here, and each casts new light on the kind of sculpture the workshop(s) produced and the range of customers it may have served. These three work in England suggest that Elsloo patrons included individuals from the higher echelons of society, who commissioned secular as well as religious subjects for private as well as public viewing.

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