The sculptural work by Josef Stammel in Admont Abbey library
There are 16 sculptures and two large reliefs by Josef Stammel (1695 – 1765) in Admont Abbey library. It is probable that 60 of the total of 68 busts ‒ of scholars, artists, poets, sculptors and muses ‒ that decorate the bookcases are also his work. Stammel worked for Admont Abbey for more than four decades. He was a contemporary of Georg Raphael Donner and Bartolomeo Altomonte and was thus a member of the generation that was responsible for the last flowering of the style of the late Baroque. His works are in stark contrast with the underlying Enlightenment-infused concept of the rest of Admont library. Josef Stammel used limewood to create his sculptures. With the exception of the gilded busts, they have been bronzed to create the illusion of being metallic.
At the height of the gallery on the two narrow sides of the library are mounted two large reliefs. The relief on the south wall shows a popular motif from the Old Testament ‒ the ‘Judgement of Solomon’ as the epitome of human wisdom. Its pendant on the north wall shows a scene from the New Testament with the boy Jesus teaching in the temple, representing divine wisdom.
There are also large almost three-dimensional reliefs in the side chambers at the height of the galleries. These show a total of eight Biblical figures: on the south side are the prophets Moses and Elijah with the Apostles Peter and Paul facing them; on the north side are the four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
In the upper section of the central room are four personified virtues as female figures ‒ eternal truth (‘veritas eterna’), divine wisdom (‘sapientia divina’), sagacity (‘prudentia’) and knowledge (‘scientia’).
Also to be found in the central room are Josef Stammel’s figures ‘The Four Last Things‘, created c. 1755 – 60. These four oversized free-standing figures are characterised by their dramatic gestures and expressions. They represent Death, Resurrection (also Judgement), Heaven and Hell, representing a core eschatological theme of the Baroque. The human traveller on Earth must, at the time of their death, face these Four Last Things. They must submit to God’s judgement that will decide whether they ascend to heavenly bliss or must suffer the damnation of Hell. The four sculptures have been positioned here in the central space, between columns and bookcases, since about 1800.
They were not originally designed to be displayed here. In their place, at the core of the library, once stood Stammel’s remarkable ‘Universum‘ ‒ the Universe ‒ a work which was subsequently destroyed during the major fire at Admont.
For more information on Josef Stammel, click here!