Angelic Salutation (Stoss)
Angelic Salutation (German: Engelsgruß) is an assemblage of limewood sculptures celebrating the Annunciation by the German artist Veit Stoss in 1518. It was created for the medieval church of St. Lorenz in Nuremberg, southern Germany, where it hangs on a metal chain in the center of the choir facing the high altar. It was commissioned in 1517 by the German merchant, city councillor and treasurer Anton Tucher as a devotional centerpiece for those reciting the rosary or other Marian devotions. Tucher employed Albrecht Dürer to review the quality of the piece before final payment was determined and made to Stoss. The work shows the Virgin Mary and Archangel Gabriel surrounded by a series of small angels, many of whom are ringing bells in celebration or joyfully playing musical instruments. The statues are suspended within the encircling frame of a wreath of roses embedded with eight medallions illustrating scenes from both the Life of the Virgin and Life of Christ. Stoss created a large gilded crown to hang over the frame, but this is now lost. Tucher commissioned craftsman Jakob Pulmann to design and install an iron candelabra holding a miniature statue of Mary in order to illuminate Stoss's work.
The ensemble was completed on the eve of the German Reformation, when Lutheran reformers introduced ideas of iconoclasm as they began to question both the need for, and purpose of religious art. In 1525 Tucher and the city split from the Catholic church in favour of Lutheranism. From 1519 a green fabric was placed over the work, and it was allowed to be uncovered only on holy days. It had long been thought that the covering was imposed by iconoclasts, however the 20th-century discovery of a document drawn up by Tucher finds mention of payment for the cloth indicating that the shroud was part of the original design. In 1529 it stopped being uncovered for Church holidays. A 1756 record reveals that because the Lutheran theologian Andreas Osiander "preached against this image and called the Mary a golden milk-maid a green coverage was made for it."
In the late 1520s Angelic Salutation was seen as merely devotional, with no liturgical purpose; it celebrated Mary rather than Jesus and was centered on the rosary which fell out of favour with the Lutherans. It was expensive to maintain, and it was argued that the money paid for its upkeep could be better spent providing for the poor. Because the work was deemed the private property of the wealthy and influential Tucher family it mostly escaped destruction. Generally, in post-reformation Germany, religious art commissioned by nobility was spared if it was taken into private collection. Yet the Angelic Salutation was allowed to remain - albeit shrouded - in a public area, an indication of the city of Nuremberg's pride in its heritage. Only the crown was disassembled and demolished, and the centerpiece covered and largely decommissioned. The work remained threaten[clarification needed] and was described as "a disgrace to Nuremberg". At one point a collection was made to replace the metal suspension with hemp to save costs. However, in 1817 this rope broke. It was not until the end of the 19th century that the Angelic Salutation was permanently uncovered and opened to the public.
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