Masters of Mobility


4.2 Netherlandish Sculptors in Mecklenburg

Considering their familial ties with Brandenburg, it is understandable that the Dukes of Mecklenburg during the Reformation would rely heavily on the Cranach workshop and other artists from Martin Luther's circle, for instance the Saxonian sculptors Simon and Georg Schröter who erected a pulpit and an elaborate stone altar for Duke Johann Albrecht I in the newly built church of Schwerin castle. The church, completed in 1563, was modelled after the Lutheran church of Torgau.1

The important building projects concerning Schwerin castle created a large demand for artists and artisans in Mecklenburg. The Netherlandish sculptor Philip Brandin (c. 1535-1594) was the one to make best use of the situation.2 Brandin originated from Utrecht but may have spent some time in the workshop of Cornelis Floris II in Antwerp. It is not known how contact with Mecklenburg came about, but in 1563 Brandin was present in Schwerin working for Johann Albrecht on the ducal castle. He set up a large workshop with collaborators in Wismar in 1567, where he received a few commissions from locals, and married a local woman. The names of the artisans in his workshop that can be found in the documents, testify to the Netherlandish origin of many of them. We find Gert von Utrecht, Hans von Utrecht, Jost Burmans, Gert von Brüssel, and Conrad Floris. At least of Conrad Floris (Ϯ1600) there is a specific work known through a document of payment he received in 1566 for a relief showing Lot and his Daughters which has been preserved and is in the Schwerin museum's collection [16]. But Brandin's workshop also supplied lesser work such as decoration for doorways. Conrad Floris's relief and a number of other sculpted subjects were originally part of the decoration of the duke's apartment. We know that the Brandin workshop was not responsible for all of them; some were imported from the Netherlands. This holds true for two scenes from the Old and three from the New Testament of which the Last Judgement is signed and dated 1563 by Willem van den Broecke (1530-1579), also called Guilielmus Paludanus, while the others are attributed to the same artist (Last Judgement, Fall of Man [17], Brazen Serpent, Crucifixion, Resurrection). A sixth work in the series (Birth of Christ) is clearly by another hand. The reliefs are still in the castle today, installed with their fine architectural cartouches in the embrasure of the church windows. Even if Brandin and his collaborators were not the artists producing them, they were probably instrumental for the commissioning and import of these reliefs.

Some important monuments by Netherlandish sculptors in Mecklenburg were made by masters who worked independently of Brandin. It is interesting to see that they would rather set up a workshop outside of Mecklenburg. A case in point is the funerary monument for Christoph of Mecklenburg, a younger brother of Dukes Johann Albrecht and Ulrich. His second wife, Elisabeth of Sweden, erected it for him in the cathedral in Schwerin. For this commission, she turned to Robert Coppens (c. 1530-after 1618?) from Mechelen, probably in order not to interfere with the duke's commissions to his court sculptor Brandin. At this time Coppens was working in Lübeck, having come from Wolfenbüttel. He would later go on to work in Königsberg in Prussia. The Schwerin monument for Christoph is one of his most important works surviving. It was erected between 1594 and 1596 [18].3

The Brandin workshop seems to have received all the important commissions from both ruling princes of the ducal family. Not only Schwerin castle was to be decorated for Johann Albrecht, but his brother, Duke Ulrich of Mecklenburg-Güstrow also turned to Brandin's Wismar workshop for his large-scale project of turning the choir of Güstrow cathedral into the sepulcral shrine for his branch of the family. On its northern wall in the choir were erected three giant monuments. The first one, built circa 1573-1575, is the Borwin epitaph (on the right) [19],4 commemorating the oldest forefather of the dynasty (died 1226) who is said to have been buried in the free-standing sarcophagus in the centre of the cathedral's choir [20]. Its covering stone is also a work by Brandin.5 The second wall monument is the smaller tomb of Dorothea of Denmark underneath the window [21].6 Dorothea, daughter of the Danish king Frederick I, had died in 1575, only two years after her wedding with Duke Christoph. Her sister Elisabeth was the reigning Duke Ulrich's wife and since 1572 their daughter Sophie was queen of Denmark by virtue of her marriage to King Frederick II. The dynastic connection to the kingdom of Denmark was of obvious importance to the duke. The tomb for Dorothea must have been built around 1576. Finally, the most ambitious part of the ensemble was the tomb for Ulrich himself and his first wife Elisabeth of Denmark [22].7 It was begun in 1583 and sports the life-size free-standing, or rather kneeling, statues of the couple which were completed in 1585, shortly before Elizabeth died. After remarrying in 1588, Ulrich had a statue of his second wife, Anna of Pommerania, added to the ensemble, making for a stately procession towards the high altar. The backdrops for the life-size statues in all three monuments by Philip Brandin is formed by extensive family trees that show the genealogy of the ducal family.

Conrad Floris
Lot and his daughters, in or before 1566
marble 72 x 66,5 cm
Schwerin, Staatliches Museum Schwerin, inv./ Pl. 216

Willem van den Broecke
The fall of man (Genesis 3: 22-24), c. 1563
alabaster 70 x 65 cm
Schwerin, Schlosskirche (Schwerin)

Robert Coppens
Tomb of Duke Christoph of Mecklenburg-Gadebusch and his wife Elisabeth of Sweden, 1594-1596
sandstone, alabaster ? x ? cm
Schwerin, Dom (Schwerin)

Philip Brandin and after Peter van Boeckel (I) and Cornelis Kromeny
Epitaph of Heinrich Borwin II, Lord of Mecklenburg (1170-1226) with a genealogy of the Dukes of Mecklenburg, c. 1573/74-1575
sandstone, gold 880 x 680 x 93 cm
Güstrow, Güstrower Dom

Philip Brandin
Tomb of Heinrich Borwin II, Lord of Mecklenburg (1170-1226), c. 1573/1574
sandstone, marble 80 x 130 x 100 cm
Güstrow, Güstrower Dom

Philip Brandin
Epitaph of Dorothea, Duchess of Mecklenburg (1528-1575), c. 1576
marble, alabaster, sandstone, gold 425 x 280 x 75 cm
Güstrow, Güstrower Dom

Philip Brandin and Bernd Berninger and Claus Midow and Claus Köster and possibly Conrad Floris possibly after Cornelis Kromeny possibly after Peter van Boeckel (I)
Epitaph of Ulrich, Duke of Mecklenburg-Güstrow (1527-1603) and his wives Elisabeth of Denmark and Norway (1524-1586) and Anna of Pomerania (1554-1626), c. 1575/76-1586/87 and 1597-1599/1600
marble, alabaster, sandstone, gold 750 x 800 x 125 cm
Güstrow, Güstrower Dom

The cathedral choir was only one of the projects in Güstrow that were ultimately aimed at turning the city into a worthy residence. It is telling that Brandin only started working in Güstrow in 1574, when Johann Albrecht in Schwerin who died two years later was already ailing. It seems that only now the chance had come for the younger brother Ulrich to make a show of the magnificence of this younger line of the house of Mecklenburg. Brandin was not only put to work on the cathedral but also on the castle of Güstrow, Ulrich's residential palace. In 1583 Brandin was officially installed as the court architect with a yearly stipend of 100 guilders. Among other works he rebuilt the northern wing of Güstrow castle that had burned down in 1586. He – together with his workshop – also seems to have been responsible for the epitaph dated 1590 for Duchess Ursula of Mecklenburg, cousin of Ulrich and abbess of the convent of Clares in Ribnitz who had died in 1586 [23-24].8 Its design matches the Güstrow monuments. Brandin also profited from the familial ties of the ducal family. In 1590 he moved to Nykøbing in Denmark for building projects of Ulrich's daughter Sophie, then already widow of the King of Denmark. Duke Ulrich payed for these works. Brandin died in Nykøbing in 1594 before his tasks were completed.

Philip Brandin and possibly Claus Midow
Epitaph of Ursula, Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1510-1586), 1590
sandstone, gold 720 x 360 x 120 cm
Ribnitz-Damgarten, Kloster Ribnitz

studio of Philip Brandin
Tomb slab of Ursula, Duchess of Mecklenburg (1510-1586), c. 1586-1590
limestone ? x ? cm
Ribnitz-Damgarten, Kloster Ribnitz


1 Weingart 2008, p. 22-24.

2 On Brandin: Jolly 1999, Jolly 1999A.

3 For the Schwerin monument by Coppens: Ketelsen-Volkhardt 1989, p. 41-49, Albrecht 1998, p. 125-126, Jolly 1999A, p. 128-129 and Arnold/Frohberg 2009, who in note 1 indicates the commission contract preserved in the Schwerin archive, LHAS, 2.12-1/10 Acta funeralia no. 30.

4 Neumann 2009, no. P 4, p. 307-319.

5 Neumann 2009, no. P 3, p. 304-307.

6 Neumann 2009, no. P 5, p. 319-325.

7 Neumann 2009, no. P 6, p. 326-358.

8 Neumann 2009, no. P 7, p. 359-372.

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