b. 1620 Wasserburg?, Germany, d. 1706 Salzburg, Austria
Renowned for his intricate creations, Balthasar Griessmann was a celebrated ivory carver in the 1600s. But despite his reputation, for many years Griessmann was known simply as Monogrammist BG--from the initials he used to sign some of his pieces. Only in the 1990s, thanks to a fortuitous discovery in the archives of Salzburg, Austria, were Griessmann's full name and biography established. Born in Southern Germany, Griessmann is documented as a resident of Salzburg by 1673--although it is likely that he moved there much earlier. He specialized in ivory carvings but may have occasionally worked in different materials. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Griessmann did not confine his activity to either figure carving or turning on a lathe, but was skilled in both techniques. This broad proficiency enabled him to create ivories featuring a remarkable interplay between sculpted figures and geometrical shapes. As was common practice in Baroque ivory sculpture, Griessmann often made use of prints as sources for his compositions. He transformed these sources, including works by Annibale Carracci and Lucas Cranach the Elder, into three-dimensional ivory compositions, moving effortlessly between different degrees of relief, from extremely low relief to figures sculpted fully in the round.
German, about 1680