Small Sculptures by Johann Benedikt Witz

22nd March – 19th June 2016

Johann Benedikt Witz Johann Benedikt Witz was a soldier and master gunner with the military and was stationed in Königshofen from 1742 and then on the Würzburg Fortress from 1753. Carving was his passion. In his free time, he created countless small sculptures, which were very popular among the members of the community. About 40 pieces by Johann Benedikt Witz have been preserved at the Mainfränkisches Museum.

In 2015, the Freunden Mainfränkischer Kunst und Geschichte e.V. (association of the Friends of Main-Franconian Art and History) succeeded in acquiring a special piece for the Mainfränkisches Museum:
a miniature tomb of Christ with sarcophagus. The “Friends” were able to make this purchase due to a legacy that was left specifically to acquire collectibles for the Mainfränkisches Museum.

If you lift the lid of the new approx. 24 cm long rectangular box, you will see a naked body of Christ dressed only in a loincloth. His hands are folded together in front of his abdomen and his face is crowned with rays. The image of the “tomb of Christ”, a sculpture of a Corpus Christi, which was carried to the grave in churches on Good Friday, is clearly conveyed in a miniature format here. As a result, it is also reminiscent of the pictorial tradition of the “Tödlein” (Little Death). These small sculptures of decomposing to skeletonised human corpses were often kept in a miniature casket and placed in private households as a memento mori, a reminder of transience and a warning of ever-present death. In the image, the small tomb of Christ in the casket combines the memory of Christ's death on the Cross with the reminder of a person’s own transience and encourages belief in the redemption of mankind, which was justified by Jesus' death on the cross – according to Christian belief.

In fitting with the commemoration of the Passion of Christ in Holy Week, the newly acquired tomb of Christ by Johann Benedikt Witz is now being presented to the public for the first time.

To date, this type of depiction by Johann Benedikt Witz has been unheard of and perfectly complements the extensive collection of his works in the Mainfränkisches Museum. Two-thirds of the works by autodidact Witz held in the Mainfränkisches Museum can always be seen in the permanent exhibition. The rest of his works are in storage. At the moment, in view of the transfer of the museum into government responsibility that is planned for 2017, a team of museologists and restorers are currently pressing ahead enthusiastically with the registration of collections in a database. As part of the “Blicke hinter die Kulissen” (A Glimpse Behind the Curtains) series, the pieces by Johann Benedikt Witz found in the storeroom are now also being presented. They help to classify and appreciate the acquisition of the little tomb of Christ and make the work of museum staff clear to visitors.

As an autodidact, Johann Benedikt Witz developed his own individual style, which incorporates many role models from various eras, limits itself to small formats, offers lots of details and is enchanting due to the meticulous, careful workmanship. The works by Johann Benedikt Witz are created for close-range viewing and have enjoyed great popularity, particularly among individuals. To this day, these small detailed sculptures and reliefs, which tell stories laden with symbolism, fascinate us. The Small Sculptures by Johann Benedikt Witz offer more than a “split-second glance”; they whisk you away into the world of ideas of the artist and his era.



Tuesday 22nd March 2016, 14.00
Introduction of the special presentation of Small Sculptures and the latest acquisition
Dr. Claudia Lichte
Representatives of the media are also invited

Sunday 17th April 2016, 11.00
Tour: Klein(e)Plastik – Skulpturen im Miniaturformat von Witz bis Riemenschneider (Small Sculptures – Sculptures in Miniature Format by Johann Benedikt Witz to Riemenschneider)
Dr. Claudia Lichte

Sunday 1st May 2016, 11.00
Tour: Works by Johann Benedikt Witz in the Permanent Exhibition and Special Presentation
Dr. Claudia Lichte

Opening Hours

Museum für Franken
Staatliches Museum für Kunst- und Kulturgeschichte
incl. Museum im Fürstenbau

1st April to 31st October
10 - 17
1st November to 31st March
10 - 16
Closed on Mondays
Opening hours on public holidays


Museum für Franken
Staatliches Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte

Festung Marienberg
97082 Würzburg

Telephone +49 (0)931-20594 0
Telefax     +49 (0)931-20594 56

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