Bust of St Frederick

Elias Scerpswert, 1362
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

As a bishop’s seat, Utrecht had a flourishing artistic climate in the Middle Ages. This is evidenced by the many Utrecht masterpieces in museums worldwide. Masterpieces of wood, stone, parchment, pigment and silk. We rarely encounter any items made of silver or gold, however – they were consigned to the furnaces of the Utrecht mint in 1578. Precious metals were needed to supply the treasury, which had been exhausted by the Dutch Republic’s struggle against the Spanish forces. The wonderful bust of St. Frederic by Elias Scerpswert (1362) was spared this fate, however. Individuals charged with preserving relics took the bust to a place of safety in the nick of time.

Scerpswert was seen in his day as one of the city’s leading goldsmiths. This bust is superb in its refinement and expression. The stylistic influence of Western Europe’s most prominent artistic centers, such as Cologne and Paris, is unmistakable. Gazing at this bust, we find ourselves facing a shining example of Utrecht’s masterful art production, and we get a glimpse of what added luster to our forefathers’ religious experience.

Annabel Dijkema, Head of Museum Affairs, Slot Loevestein, Poederoijen

Explore more

Rijksmuseum audio tour: highlights 1100-1600

The bust is number 3 on the list (1:20 min)

Listen on rijksmuseum.nl