Lübeck's Dance of Death

Who created St. George and the dragon?

It is typical for old works of art that the name of the artist isn't recorded. It was often noted who had paid for the work, while the artist was an anonymous craftsman - like the bricklayer and the smith. Saint George and the Dragon in Stockholm is no exception - we know it was paid for by Sten Sture (and 10 of his men), we know the price, and we know who consecrated it - but we do not know the artist.

The dragon on Köpmansbrinken
A copy in bronze.

A 100 years after the work was created, Johannes Messenius wrote that the artist came from Antwerp: »Herr Sten til Antwerpen skref / efter then kånstrijkaste man / som en i bildsnidnings kånst fan« (i.e. "Mr. Sten wrote to Antwerp after the most artful man, who was to be found in the art of carving"). Messenius also wrote that Sten Sture got the artist killed in order to ensure that nobody else would get a similar work of art!

The dragon in Stockholm
The dragon has been made of local material, like elk antlers, proving the artist must have resided in Sweden.

In his novel, Sankt Göran och draken from 1900, Heidenstam writes that the artist was named "Master Andreas" from Andorf (= Antwerp). Master Andreas is also killed shortly after having completed his work, not by Sten Sture, but by the female model's jealous husband.

It wasn't before 1901 that the work was attributed to Bernt Notke. Notke was Deputy Master of the Mint in Stockholm in 1491 - and now we are told that this job was a reward for his great work of art. Forgotten were the stories about the artist being killed shortly after finishing his work.

Has Bernt Notke created the St. George group? We must assume that the artist has stayed in Stockholm, since he has used local material - e.g. there are many elk antlers in the dragon. If somebody wants to prove that Notke created the statue, then their first task will be to prove that Notke was in Stockholm in 1489

Unfortunately we do not know where Notke resided in the period up to 1489: 24th May 1484 "Berent Notken" was in Stockholm, 1486 finds "Berndt Nötke" and "Nötteken" in Lübeck and in 1487 "Berndt Nöteken" is still (or again) in Lübeck. In the three years where the statue was executed, the documents are silent - until 1491 where "Berndt Nötken" is Deputy Master of the Mint in Stockholm.

Our best clue is a letter from 1506 about Notke - signed »Henrick wylssynck de den joryen help maken toe dem holm« - i.e. Henrick Wilsing who helped making the [St.] George in [Stock]holm. Unfortunately Wilsing doesn't tell how he has assisted or - more important - whom.

Further information:


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