The Getty Museum were the successful bidders at auction earlier today for an extraordinary rare sculpture of St. John the Baptist dating from early 16th-century. The Getty, which is based in Los Angeles bought the piece for 313,250 pounds (about $487,000), which was more than double the estimated 150,000 pounds that was expected from the sale.
The sculptured was carved in limewood by the accomplished Master of the Harburger Altar in about 1515. Nearly 60 inches tall, it depicts St. John the Baptist standing on a small mound, painted to suggest a grassy hillock, cradling the Holy Lamb who turns toward the saint. St John wears a voluminous cloak over a roughly sewn shift made of a camel’s skin; the camel’s head can be seen resting between his feet. The limewood figure, which still retains considerable areas of original paint, very likely formed part of a carved winged altarpiece, perhaps flanking other saint figures, originally from the church at Schloss Harburg, a castle belonging to the House of Oettingen-Wallerstein, near Nördlingen in Swabia (southern Germany). It is part of a small, well-studied group of sculptures that may have made up the Harburger Altar and that all share the same distinctive sculptural treatment of billowing drapery and broken contours.
Click here to read this article from Medievalists.net