German, Bavaria - Saint Martin and the Beggar, about 1520

German, Bavaria

Saint Martin and the Beggar, about 1520

Polychromed lindenwood, 124.5 cm (49 in.)


Object details

Accession number



Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from the collection of Emile Peyre (1828-1904), Paris for 2,019 francs on 17 July 1897, through Fernand Robert, her regular agent in Paris.


Catalogue. Fenway Court. (Boston, 1903), p. 13. (as early gothic)
Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 178. (probably Bavarian, early 16th century)
Charles L. Kuhn. "German Late Gothic Sculpture in the Gardner Museum, Boston" in Wilhelm Reinhold Walter Koehler (ed.). Medieval Studies in Memory of A. Kingsley Porter (Cambridge, 1939), pp. 568, 570-71, fig. 8. (as Bavarian, Franconian, about 1520)
Anneliese Harding. German Sculpture in New England Museums (Boston, 1972), p. 83. (as Austrian or Bohemian, about 1520-1530)
Cornelius C. Vermeule III et al. Sculpture in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1977), pp. 101-02, no. 133. (as Bavarian, about 1520)
Walter Cahn. "Medieval Sculpture" in James Thomas Herbert Baily (ed.). The Connoisseur: An Illustrated Magazine for Collectors, "Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum" (London, 1978), p. 26, fig. B.
Rollin van N. Hadley. Museums Discovered: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1981), pp. 172-73, ill.

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The young Saint Martin was a Roman soldier in France. One bitterly cold day he came upon a crippled beggar. Martin cut his military cloak in half in order to share it with the beggar. That night Christ, dressed in half of the cloak, appeared to Martin in a vision and commended the young soldier for his kindness and charity. Martin later became bishop of the French city of Tours. Conceived as a relief to be placed against a flat surface, this lively sculpture shows the saint dividing his cloak. Both the relative sizes of the figures and the contrast in their clothing emphasize the differences between them.