Applied Arts Collection

The Putti Figures from the Mariensäule (Marian Column)

In 1620, two years after the start of the Thirty Years' War, Duke Maximilian of Bavaria defeated the "Winter King" Friedrich V at the Battle of White Mountain near Prague. Twelve years later, Munich was occupied by the Swedish King Gustav Adolph. As a consequence of these two events, the devoutly religious Maximilian made a vow. And on what is today Marienplatz, he erected a votive column at whose top stands the Virgin Mary as the patron of Bavaria. The column was consecrated by Bishop Veit Adam von Gebeck of Freising on November 7, 1638. In 1641 four putti figures wearing ancient armor were added to the corners of the column's base. Known commonly as the "heroic putti", the cherubic figures are depicted battling against the main scourges of the age: famine (symbolized by a dragon), plague (basilisk), war (lion) and – from a Catholic perspective – heresy (snake). The inscriptions on the puttis’ shields apply to the Virgin Mary and are taken from Psalm 91, Verse 13: "Super aspidem et basiliscum [ambulabis] et [conculcabis] leonem et draconem" ("Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the serpent shalt thou trample under foot"). With their dramatic, all-action poses, the putti rank among the Early Baroque period's most important works of art.

Unfortunately there are no historical records documenting the name of the artist who created these figures. There is, however, consensus that it might have been Ferdinand Murmann from Augsburg who had begun working with the sculptor Georg Petel (1601-1634) in 1634. The pieces were cast by Bernhard Ernst (ca. 1596-1682) of Munich, who was the court cannon- and bellmaker.

At the end of the 20th century, the four "heroic putti" on the Marian Column were replaced by modern copies and the originals moved to the Münchner Stadtmuseum.

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