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Zimmermann Brothers

Zimmermann Brothers. Bavarian artists, sons of Elias Zimmermann (1656–95), stucco worker and mason, they were masters of the South-German Rococo style, creating several masterpieces. Born near Wessobrunn, where the Abbey was the centre of one of the most important and innovative schools of workers in stucco, they probably trained under Johann Schmu(t)zer, the leading C17 Wessobrunn architect and stuccoer. The Zimmermanns usually worked independently, but joined forces to create some of their best work (e.g. the Pilgrimage Churches of Steinhausen and Die Wies). They acquired and evolved a light, delicate, and elegant style perhaps influenced by French exemplars, but certainly far removed from the heavy C17 German Baroque of some of Schmu(t)zer's creations. Dominikus Zimmermann (1685–1766) was a stuccoer and scagliola worker before emerging as one of the most gifted architects of the first half of C18 in Southern Germany. His older brother, Johann Baptist Zimmermann (1680–1758), was not only a stuccoer and worker in scagliola, but a fine fresco-painter as well. J. B. Zimmermann's exquisitely delicate stucco decorations in the Amalienburg (1734–9), Nymphenburg (1755–7), and Residenz (1733–7), all in Munich, were among the most beautiful of their kind in Europe.

Dominikus's first church was at Mödingen, near Dillingen (1716–21), for which he also carried out stucco decorations, while his brother did the frescoes and other parts of the stucco-work. The fully developed Rococo style of the Zimmermanns, however, was first evident at the Pilgrimage Church (Wallfahrtskirche) of Our Lady of Sorrows, Steinhausen, near Biberach, Württemberg (1727–35—signed by Dominikus as architect and stuccoer in an inscription beneath the organ-gallery), a large elliptical volume surrounded by a continuous aisle, with the high-altar and tower placed at either end of the long axis (an arrangement perhaps suggested by an earlier proposal by Moosbrugger, and probably by C. D. Asam's design for Weltenburg). Colouring is predominantly white and gold, with a superb ceiling-fresco by J. B. Zimmermann, while Marian imagery and colouring are found throughout the church, all marvellously integrated within the total design. Steinhausen has been called the first true Rococo church.

Dominikus Zimmermann's next important solo work was the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), Günzburg on the Danube (1736–41), downstream from Ulm: from outside the nave appears to be rectangular, but the positions of columns and curving elements produce an elliptical space further defined by the siting of the side-altars. The Günzburg church, however, lacks the élan of Steinhausen, but at the Pilgrimage Church of Christ Scourged (1744–54), set in charming meadows (hence the popular name, Die Wies) not far from Füssen near the Bavarian Alps Dominikus Zimmermann again achieved greatness. Many writers hold Die Wies in high esteem as the triumph of South-German Rococo. Like Steinhausen, it consists of a large, almost elliptical, space surrounded by an aisle, but has a vestibule behind the convex wall of the entrance-front and a long, narrow, rectangular chancel on the long axis. However, unlike Steinhausen, the plan of the main body of the church for the pilgrims is not elliptical, but consists of two semicircles on either side of a rectangle, and is separated from the aisle and vestigial transepts (at each end of the rectangle set on a cross-axis) by paired columns instead of piers, enhancing the delicacy and elegance of the interior. Above the central congregational volume is a ceiling-fresco by J. B. Zimmermann, a vision of the Heavens depicting the moment just before the Last Judgement, with Christ on the Rainbow prior to being seated on the Throne. Christ's Scourging is symbolized by the columns of white and blood-red scagliola in the choir, and the Evangelists by the high-altar have their Gospels open at the passages describing that event. Otherwise, Wieskirche is mostly white, colouring being confined to altars, the remarkable pulpit (one of D. Zimmermann's most effervescent creations), and the ceilings. The architectural arrangements permit generous lighting, enhancing the extraordinary brilliance and delicacy of the interior, a joyous ensemble that is essentially an outpouring of creative energy to astound, delight, and enchant.

The Zimmermanns, with some of their contemporaries, the brothers Franz Xaver (1698–1763) and Johann Michael (1696–1772) Feichtmayr and Johann Georg Üblhör(r) (1703–63), invented a regional Rococo that was one of the most delicious and elegant styles ever evolved.

Bibliography

H. Bauer & and A. Bauer (1985);
Bourke (1962);
L. Hager (1955);
Hitchcock (1968, 1968a);
Kasper & and Strache (1957);
Lamb (1964);
Lampl (1979);
Rupprecht (1959);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
Schnell (1981);
Schnell & and Schedler (1988);
Jane Turner (1996);
Thon (1977)

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