Leonhard Kern – ‘one of the most famous German artists’
In the first history of German art published in 1675 – Teutsche Academie der Edlen Bau-, Bild- und Mahlerey-Künste – the artists’ biographer Joachim von Sandrart describes his contemporary Leonhard Kern as ‘one of the most famous German artists’.1 His many works in the art collections and cabinets of curiosities of the nobility and the bourgeoisie in his day testify to Kern’s importance as a sculptor.2 Apart from a few monumental sculptures made on commission3 his œuvre mostly comprises small sculptures made of ivory, alabaster and wood. The artist-entrepreneur produced these with great success for cabinets of curiosities in royal collections and for a new market that was emerging among the increasingly moneyed and influential middle-class. This was not to be taken for granted at the time as, during the Thirty Years’ War, the situation for a freelance artist working without the protection of a court, was often difficult. Throughout his life, Leonhard Kern travelled extensively to meet collectors and potential customers. Kern had a sales room adjoining the workshop in his house in Schwäbisch Hall where he lived from 1620 onwards, so that passing travellers could view and purchase his works.4
Most of the details known about the life of Leonhard Kern (1588-1662), his apprenticeship and years as a journeyman come largely from the obituary written upon his death.5
Kern comes from a family of craftsmen in the third generation: both his grandfather and father are stonemasons and foremen in Forchtenberg where Leonhard’s elder brother, Michael, has run a successful sculpture workshop since 1607.6 Leonhard, one of seven children, is the only one to attend the Hohenlohesches Gymnasium, the grammar school in Oehringen. He leaves school in 1603 at the age of fourteen and enters the workshop run by his brother, Michael, who by this time has moved temporarily to Würzburg.
Leonhard Kern is one of t
Reproduced in: René Clemencic (Hg.), Wandlung - Ereignis Skulptur. Die Sammlung Clemencic, exhibition catalogue Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Hohenems 2003. S. 273, Abb. Nr. 45.
Detailed Description :
In this work Kern depicts one of the ‘Twelve Labours of Hercules’, procuring of the belt that protected the Amazonian queen Hippolyta, whom he kills in the ensuing struggle. Here Kern cites the prototypical ‘Rape of the Sabines’, made by Giambologna as a figura serpentinata in 1580/81, in a masterly way. It is possible that Kern created ‘Hercules Struggling with the Amazonian Queen Hippolyta’ in the royal city of Heidelberg where he lived from 1614 until 1617, after returning from his stay in Italy between 1609 and 1614. It may even have been commissioned by the Elector Palatine Frederick V, Hercules – a godlike figure famous for his strength – being the popular allegorical figure of a ruler.
Probably Elector Friedrich V of the Palatinate Collection Prof. René Clemencic, Wien