Peter Flötner (Biographical details)

Peter Flötner (sculptor/medallist; printmaker; German; Male; c. 1485/1490 - 1546)

Also known as

Flötner, Peter; Flettner, Peter; Flöttner, Peter


Flötner was probably born in Thurgau, Switzerland, but little is known of his early career. He may have trained in Augsburg, and he moved to Nuremberg in 1522, where he took the oath of citizenship in the following year and where he spent his career. He was one of the most innovative and influential sculptors and designers of ornament, for furniture, fountains, organs, altarpieces and other decorative objects of the German Renaissance. To judge from the classicising Renaissance style he introduced into much of his work, he possibly travelled in Italy in 1520 or 1521 and perhaps again c.1530. His signature of chisel and mallet, indicates that he regarded himself primarily as a carver; surviving examples of his carved sculpture are rare, but the signed wooden sculpture of 'Adam' of c.1525 (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum) and the sculpture for the garden room of the Hirschvogelhaus, erected in 1534, the ceiling of which was painted by Georg Pencz (Nuremberg, Stadtmuseum Fembohaus) demonstrate the range of his expertise. His most significant large-scale work is the Apollo Fountain, dated 1532 (Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum) which was cast in brass by Pankraz Labenwolf (1492-1563) after a model by Flötner for which his drawing has survived (see Nuremberg, 1986, no.248). This piece exemplifies his preferred method of work, which was to provide either printed, drawn or modelled designs for craftsmen working in different media. Best known for small wooden and stone models carved in relief, of biblical, mythological and allegorical themes, often in an Italianate style, which were cast as metal plaquettes. The 'Coconut Goblet' (before 1540), is another important example for which Floetner made the wooden carving and supplied models to Baier for the silver-gilt areas (Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum). Flötner's prints are rare, but together with his plaquettes are the most significant body of his work to have survived. The majority are designs for ornament, and he also designed broadsheets, some of which illustrated verses by Hans Sachs (see 1933,0614.29) for the popular market. The lasting popularity of the style of his prints is indicated by the republication of some of them in 'Das Kunstbuch des Peter Flötner', by Rudolff Wyssenbach in Zurich in 1549, three years after Flötner's death with a second edition published by Andrea Gessner in 1560. The plaquettes were keenly sought after at an early date; a large number of lead plaquettes ('blÿin') was recorded in the Amerbach collection in Basel in 1585-7 (see F. Ackermann in E. Landolt et al., 'Das Amerbach-Kabinett: Beiträge zu Basilius Amerbach', Basel, 1991, p. 52). Despite the popularity of his work he died in debt.


K.Lange, 'Peter Flötner: Ein Bahnbrecher der deutschen Renaissance auf Grund neuer Entdeckungen', Berlin, 1897; E. F. Bange, 'Peter Flötner', Leipzig, 1926; O. von Falke, 'Peter Flötner und die süddeutsche Tischlerei', 'Jahrbuch der Königlich Preussischen Kunstsammlungen', xxxvii, Berlin, 1916, pp.121ff; Simon Jervis, 'Printed Furniture Designs before 1650', Furniture History Society, 1974, pp. 19f.; 'Peter Flötner und die Renaissance in Deutschland', exhibition catalogue, Nuremberg and the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 1946.