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A generation of Anglophone scholars has depended on Michael Baxandall’s masterwork, Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), for its inimitable introduction to the subject of the golden age of German carved altarpieces from around the turn of the sixteenth century. Now, a quarter-century later, Carved Splendor: Late Gothic Altarpieces in Southern Germany, Austria, and South Tirol—perhaps one of the most beautiful books ever produced—reintroduces this material in a translation of the 2005 Hirmer edition, with the usual high production values of that Munich art publisher. In this case, the accompanying text is truly worthy of the dazzling photographs by Achim Bunz. For scholarly specialists, Rainer Kahsnitz will be familiar as director of the Deutscher Verein für Kunstwissenschaft and as a professor at the University of Augsburg; he was author-editor of the basic reference work, Veit Stoss in Nürnberg (Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1983). The plan of Carved Splendor is to present particular masterworks as individual chapters that follow an introduction outlining and illustrating the earlier history of German carved altarpieces, including mid-fourteenth-century surviving examples, such as the former Cistercian abbey church in Bad Doberan and even the Brabant prototype in the Low Countries, the Hakendover Retable...

Rainer Kahsnitz
Trans. Russell Stockman. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2006. 480 pp.; 362 color ills.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $150.00 (0892368535)
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May 10, 2007