Wrocław sculptor educated in Saxony. Born circa 1540 in Brüx; died 1589 in Wrocław.
Wrocław sculptor educated in Saxony. In 1586 he was appointed the building master of Wrocław
Friedrich Gross the Elder, pulpit in St. Mary Magdalene Church in Wrocław, 1581, photograph by Jakub Jagiełło
Friedrich Gross was born into a family of stonemasons and builders. He came from Brüx in Saxony (today's Most in Czech Republic). His father, Jacob Gross, was a stonemason himself. It is assumed that Friedrich Gross was educated in a workshop of his uncle Hans Walther in Dresden. The first mention of the sculptor goes back to 1569, the year he got married in Wrocław and then in 1577 on the occasion of his trip to Gdańsk and Elbląg. Four years later the sculptor created a pulpit in St. Mary Magdalene Church in Wrocław. In 1582 he became a widower. The date of his second wedding is unknown.
In 1586 the sculptor was appointed a building master of Wrocław. He performed this function until his death, which has been recorded at sometime around October 16, 1589. The widow of Gross married his apprentice Gerhard Hendrik, who took over his workshop. Friedrich Gross had two sons who were also artists: Jacob, baptized on August 11, 1572 and Friedrich the Younger, baptized on September 12, 1574, who died in 1609. There are no major pieces recorded as having been made by either of the two.
The pulpit in St. Mary Magdalene Church in Wrocław is one of Gross's confirmed works. The unpreserved signature of the artist said: "ANNO DOMINI 1581" and "DURCH FRIEDRICH GROSS" ("In the Year of Our Lord 1581 by Friedrich Gross"). In order to create this work, the artist cooperated with Bartholomeus Fichtenberger (a painter), Stephan Götz (a bronze worker) and Christoph Weirach (a locksmith). The cost amounted to about 500 thalers, which was quite high in the 1580s, equal to a construction of a small village church.
Other sculptures have been attributed to Gross. Among them works in St. Elisabeth Church in Wrocław: epitaph of Ludwig Pfintzing the Younger (1575), epitaph of Georg Jeschke (after 1576), tombstone of Nicolaus Rehdigger (1582), epitaph of Hieronim Uthmann-Rathen (circa 1583) and epitaph of Andreas Rehdigger (circa 1585). Furthermore, the ornamentation of Under the Griffins Tenement House located on the main square in Wrocław might have also been created in Gross's workshop (1589). As for subsequent works created in Gross's workshop, it is hardly possible to distinguish between works by the master and his apprentice Gerhard Hendrik.
Friedrich Gross was a master in a large stonework and sculpture workshop. In his works, the sculptor used mostly sandstone. However, he was the first artist to introduce alabaster, green marble and bronze to Silesia, materials he used to create the pulpit in St. Mary Magdalene Church. Gross specialized in alabaster reliefs (e.g. in an epitaph of Uthmann-Rathen). Gross's epitaphs were created under a strong influence of the Saxon sculpture and distinguish themselves by a powerful architectural structure. Their construction is based on four-column, or less frequently, two-column aediculae, with columns set close to each other, or at a slight distance. Quite a modest ornamentation consists merely of chambranles and cornice moulding, which are often decorated with corbels.
The tombstone of the Rehdigger family is an exception to Gross's style. It is an atypical horizontal construction with a crucifix presented in the centre. Kneeled figures of the deceased face the tombstone. These structure types correspond with tombs with kneeled figures common in Saxony. The Rehdiggers' tombstone is also elaborately decorated with plant ornaments in line with Italian tradition. Most probably Gross gained familiarity with such ornamentation forms in the Walthers' workshop. The sculptor also used quite a simple Dutch ornamentation in form of ferrules and scrolling, as well as various masks, fruit baskets, fruit bunches, and mascaron profiles.
Figures in Gross's works are characterised by regular body proportions, refined postures and vivid gestures. They were considered a novelty among the sculptors' circle in Wrocław. Experimenting with various tombstone structures, introducing solutions based on the Saxon models and developing alabaster sculpture are Gross's unquestionable contribution to the sculpture flourishing in Wrocław. The altar of the St. Mary Magdalene Church in Wrocław was a source of inspiration for lower-rank artists up until the early 17th century.
Author: Jakub Jagiełło, November 2010. Translated by Katarzyna Różańska, January 2011.