The Amerbach Kunstkabinett lives again as one of the greatest Renaissance collections reunites for three months

The stunning assemblage contains works by many Northern masters, including both the elder and younger Holbeins


In celebration of the four hundredth anniversary of the death of Basilius Amerbach (1533-91), one of Renaissance Northern Europe’s greatest collectors, the Basle Kunstmuseum is reassembling the works which at the end of the last century were divided, according to then prevalent ideas of categorisation, between the Universitats bibliothek and the Historisches Museum. The collection had been sold by his descendants to the town in 1661 for the vast sum of 9,000 florins.

The exhibition, which runs from 21 April to 21 July, will include books, drawings, paintings, goldsmiths’ designs and casting models, and coins, medals, plaquettes, small sculptures and precious metal vessels. Basilius Amerbach was a humanist scholar of Basle from a family with a scholarly bent. His grandfather, Johannes, had a large library of humanist Italian texts, while his father, Bonifacius, was a close friend of Erasmus of Rotterdam and was painted by Holbein. Basilius not only added enormously to these items but catalogued them systematically. The collection includes fifteen Holbeins the Younger (including “The dead Christ”); five panels by Ambrosius Holbein and six by Niklaus Manuel. Two-thirds of the over 2000 drawings in the Basle Kupferstichkabinett come from the Amerbach-Kabinett, and include works by Hans Baldung, Holbein the Younger and Older, Urs Graf and Niklaus Manuel. For students of goldsmiths’ work, the exceptional interest of the collection lies in an unparalleled group of designs and lead and wood casting models.

This exhibition, financed entirely by the town, is the occasion of five publications, which reflect scholarly interest over the last twenty years in the early history of collecting. The leading expert on the Amerbachs, Elizabeth Langdolt, is the author of the introductory volume which also reproduces all the inventories; Christian Müller of the catalogues of fifty paintings and 130 of the drawings; Paul Tanner, of the goldsmiths’ material, and Langdolt again, with Felix Ackermann, of the works of art.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'The Amerbach Kunstkabinett lives again for three months'