Workshop „Tender Hands and Rough Stone“, 5.-7. April 2022

Ausschnitt des Plakats zum Workshop Tender Hands and Rough Stone

“Tender Hands and Rough Stone. Sculpture’s Stereotypes of Gender and Making (1550–1850)”

Workshop vom 5. bis 7. April
Konzeption: Dr. Anna Frasca-Rath, FAU
Erlangen, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität, Institut für Kunstgeschichte
Mediathek, Orangerie, Schlossgarten 1, 91054 Erlangen
Zoom Link:

In the late Nineteenth century the American sculptor Harriet Hosmer was accused by her contemporaries for the “extensive” use of assistants for the realization of her sculptures. However, making sculpture has always been a collaborative process, and as such it has already been described by Plinius in his Historia Naturalis. Famous examples range from the cooperations between Praxiteles and Nikias, Gianlorenzo Bernini and Giuliano Finelli, Falconet and Marie-Anne Collot, Antonio Canova and Adamo Tadolini, to Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel. These outstanding examples are only a tip of an iceberg of uncountable collaborations between well-known “artist” and/or anonymous “others” throughout the centuries. From this perspective Hosmer’s workshop practice was, as she and most of her contemporaries stated clearly, quite common for her time – and for sure a manifestation of her artistic success (one could compare her atelier with the larger workshops of Bernini, Canova, or Thorvaldsen).

However, the common practice of collaboration contrasts oft-repeated narratives of art-historiography and fictions of artistic genius, creativity and techne. These literary topoi created an image of “the sculptor” that differs from every-day processes documented in historic account books and workshop descriptions. And moreover, as the case of Hosmer shows clearly, it touches questions of gender: Already Giorgio Vasari’s description of Properzia de Rossis “white and tender hands” intertwined physical pre-dispositions with artistic profession and created a fiction of “women sculpture” that has been continuously reproduced, translated, and re-interpreted ever since.

This also has to do with how the interrelationship of sculptural making and sculptural materials was conceptualized, often in a contradictory or even paradoxical manner: the physical strength needed to work hard materials, on the one hand, and the imagination of the sculptor as modeler, on the other, were perceived and interpreted differently – as positive and negative – in various contexts. The same can be said about (gender) attributions to the materials of sculpture that were often equivocal and ambiguous.

The workshop “Tender hands, rough stone” aims to discuss myths and fictions of sculptural techniques and materials, by confronting these stereotypes with workshop practices from a longue-durée perspective. It is the goal, to take a fresh view on the interrelationship of the making of sculpture (via the analysis of written resources), and the conception of “the sculptor” (male and female) in art literature. Even though, we especially welcome papers that analyze examples of women sculptors, discussions will not be limited to this. On the contrary, it is the main goal, to open a discourse on sculpture and its materials, that links case studies on women sculptors with broader questions on the history of sculpture.

Program Workshop


17.30 | Anna Frasca-Rath (FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg)
Introduction: Tender Hands and Rough Stone

17.50 | Ariane Varela Braga (University of Zurich)
Welcome on behalf of NeReMa

18.00 | Paris Amanda Spies-Gans (Harvard University)
Evening Lecture: Reframing the Canon: Myths and Makings of the Premodern Woman Artist

19.00 Aperitivo


Moderation: Marthe Kretzschmar (University of Vienna)

8.45 | Welcome and Introduction

9.00 | Annette Ritter-Höll (Ritter Natursteinberatung und -begutachtung)
Morning Lecture: Natur(werk)stein

10.00 Coffee break

10.30 | Buket Altinoba (LMU Munich)
Raising the Veil. Sculpture Machines and the Demystification of Sculptural Production in the Late 19th Century

11.00 | Karen Busk-Jepsen (The Royal Danish Collection, Copenhagen)
A Workspace of One’s Own. The Problem of Workspace for the 19th Century Danish Woman Sculptor

11.30 Coffee Break

12.00 | Ursula Ströbele (ZI Munich)
Elasticity as a Sculptural Aesthetic Category

12.30 | Anna Frasca-Rath (FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg)
What about Early Modern Women Sculptors (1550-1850)?

13.00 Lunch

13.30 | Susanna Avery-Quash (National Gallery, London)
Lunch talk: The National Gallery’s ‘Women and the Arts Forum’: Research for Public Benefit Concerning Women’s Contributions to Knowledge about and Interactions with Old Master Painting

14.00 | Holly Trusted (V&A/PSSA, London)/ Joanna Barnes (PSSA, London)
Lunch talk, ‚Database and Dialogues: Discovering Women Sculptors and Their Work‘. A Presentation by the Public Statues and Sculpture Association

14.30 Coffee Break

15.00 | Tobias Kämpf (FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg)
Contrasting Rodin Narratives: The Mystification of the Modern Artist and Its Authors

15.30 | Linda Hinners (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm)
What is lacking in the treatment of the Centaur is a man” Sigrid Fridman (1879-1963) First Woman Sculptor of Public Monuments in Sweden

16.00 Coffee Break

16.30 | Julia K. Dabbs (University of Minnesota)
Writing the Woman Artist: May Alcott Nieriker and Me

17.00 | Anna Frasca-Rath (FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg)
Concluding Remarks

20.00 Dinner

7.4. 2022

Excursion to Wunsiedel with Margreta Sonnenwald (TU Munich).
Registration required (