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German family of sculptors and masons. Michael Schwenke (b Pirna, Saxony, May 1565; d Pirna, 10 July 1610) was a pupil of Christiaan Kramer (active in Pirna after 1560). His principal works, the altar and pulpit at the parish church in Lauenstein (1594–1602) and the altar in the Liebfraukirche, Pirna (1610–14), were executed in collaboration with his brother David Schwenke (b Pirna, Sept 1575; d Pirna, Nov 1620), perhaps with the assistance of his son Hans Schwenke (b Pirna, Dec 1589; d Pirna, Aug 1634). The Lauenstein altar was designed by David in a style deriving from Italian Renaissance examples; the sculpture was executed by Michael and his workshop, with the possible participation of Hans in the decorative carving. Made of sandstone painted and gilded (h. 7 m), it is composed of three superimposed Classical orders. The rich sculptural decoration consists of relief scenes from the Life of Christ, free-standing statues, including those of the donors Günther von Bünau and Margaretha von Schleinitz, as well as cartouches and scrollwork. The sculpture was possibly influenced by the work of giovanni maria Nosseni, who worked in Dresden. The figures are academic in character, with small heads, high foreheads and slender bodies. They look dynamic, in heavy, rather angular draperies. The emphasis is on the individual character of each of the figures so that there is no clear unity in the ensemble. The carved Lauenstein pulpit, supported on a kneeling statue of Moses, is the work of Michael Schwenke. The Pirna altar, of similar structure to that at Lauenstein, was begun in 1611, the year following Michael's death. Although he must have been responsible for the design of the sculpture it was executed by Anton von Saalhausen (1588–c. 1625).

From The Grove Encyclopedia of Northern Renaissance Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Renaissance Art.

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