Thumb Family

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Thumb Family. German architects and craftsmen, one of several dynasties from the Bregenz district comprising the Vorarlberg School. Indeed the Thumb family intermarried with the Beers. Michael Thumb (c.1640–90) was responsible for several important Baroque designs, including the Priory Church of Wettenhausen (1670–97), the Pilgrimage Church (Wallfahrtskirche) of Schönenberg, Ellwangen (1682–92), and the Premonstratensian Klosterkirche (Monastery Church) of Obermarchtal (1686–92). At Schönenberg he introduced the Wandpfeilerkirche arrangement, in which deep internal buttresses divide the aisles into side-chapels, the nave face of each buttress being enriched with pilasters. Outside, the position of each wall-pier is marked by a pilaster. Both Schönenberg and Obermarchtal were precedents for other Wandpfeilerkirchen of the Vorarlberg School incorporating what became known as the Vorarlberger Münsterschema (Vorarlberg large-church arrangement), in which galleries connect the wall-piers and form the ceilings of each chapel.

Peter II Thumb (1681–1766), so called to distinguish him from his grandfather, was Michael's son, and in 1707 married Anna Maria Beer (1687–1754), having supervised the building of Franz Beer's Church at Rheinau, Switzerland (1704–11). He designed the Church and Library of the Benedictine Church of St Peter in the Black Forest, near Freiburg (1724–53). His greatest work is the exquisite Cistercian Monastery and Pilgrimage Church of Neu-Birnau (1745–51) on the north shores of Lake Constance (Bodensee). The church has a large open interior, like a prayer-hall (it does not have the Wandpfeiler arrangement but the gallery continues all round the volume), with curved eastern corners and diagonals at the west, vestigial transepts, flattened vaults, and a partial ellipse for the sanctuary: its internal decorations are Rococo, among the loveliest in all Germany, mostly white, but enlivened by subtle colouring. Stucco-work (1747–50) of the frothiest, lightest kind, was by Josef Anton Feuchtmayr or Feuchtmayer (1696–1770), who also designed and made the enchanting statuary, including the celebrated Honigschlecker (honey-sucker, a figure suggestive of the Antique Harpocrates), and the frescoes are by Gottfried Bernhard Götz (or Göz—1708–74). Thumb contributed to one of the biggest and most sumptuous churches of the period, the Benedictine Abbey of St Gallen, Switzerland, where he also designed the fine Library. Moosbrugger had already made plans for the Church (1720–1), but Thumb was probably responsible for the nave and domed area, developing the Wandpfeilerkirche type further, opening it up with an impressive centralized volume.

Other members of the family include Johann Christian Thumb (c.1645–1726), who worked with Michael at Schönenberg and Obermarchtal, designed the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) at Friedrichshafen (1695–1700) with stucco-work by the Schmutzers, and was also active at Weingarten Abbey Church (1716–24). Gabriel Thumb (1671–after 1719) worked on the Pfarrkirche (Parish Church) at Lachen, Lake of Zürich, Switzerland (1707–10), based on a plan by Moosbrugger. Again it was a Wandpfeilerkirche. Michael Peter Franz Xaver Thumb (1725–69) superintended the completion of his father's Library at St Gallen as well as the nave and rotunda of the same Church.


Bourke (1962);
H-M. Gubler (1972);
Hitchcock (1968a);
Lb&D (1976);
Oechslin (1973);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
C. Powell (1959);
Jane Turner (1996)