WOOD-CARVING. A very early form of sculpture. While practically unknown in the Babylonian. Assyrian. Persian. and other styles of Western Asia, it was fairly common in very early Egyptian sculpture. Some of the most realistic portrait and genre statues of the An dent were carved in wood. such is the so.ealled "tiheikli-el-Beler and his wife, and a. number in the Bnlak Museum (now removed to (:hizell). Wood was a convenient ground for the polyebromatie decoration so popular with Egyptian It was from Egypt that primitive Greek seulp ture doubtless derived its first incentive to carve wood, which was probably the earliest form of archaic sculpture. The D:edalian and kindred schools used wood; and its connection with early sacred images led to the preservation of worship of many early wooden statues. The later Greeks and the Romans used it comparatively little, but one of the most remarkable works of early Christian sculpture are the carved wooden doors of Santa Sabina, Rome.
When wood-carving was revived in the eleventh century it was practiced especially in the North of Europe (Scandinavia, Germany, and part of France). The material was not only used in its native simplicity, but was covered with canvas or cloth, stuccoed and painted. the earliest Romanesque pieces are colossal crucifix ions in the Cluny and Louvre museums. Church furniture employed wood, and in Flanders and Germany especially altar-pieces, triptychs. sta tion reliefs, passion crosses. and other monu mental works were multiplied to such an extent that wood-carvings formed the most important part of German sculpture during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and stone sculpture was influenced by it. It came to delight in most won derfully intricate or realistic details of handling. The art had its great masters, like Wohlgemuth, Veit Stoss, Hans Brfiggemann. and Jan Borman,
and its centres were Flanders, the Rhine region, and Franconia (especially Nuremberg). ln the modern wood-carvers of primitive German dis tricts, such as Tyrol, we find survivals of these old schools.
The Italian Renaissance used wood-earving in very different fashion. Its masterpieces were the elaborate choir stalls, in such superb ex amples as those at San Pietro. Perugia. at the Cathedral of Orvieto, and at Santa Giustina in Padua. In France it was also the choir stalls and screens that were the masterpieces of the art, as at Rouen, supplemented by carved doors. In Italy, also, minor works of industrial art, such as carved wedding chests, were raised to quite a high artistic level. Occasionally in North Italy (Lombardy and Piedmont) carved wood altar pieces occur, but not often enough to show any general movement in figured carving correspond ing to that farther north. One of the specialties in Italy was the carving, of elaborate ceilings, such as that of the halls in the Palazzo Veeehio and that of the Laurentian Library at Florence. The carved lecterns of this time are •very beauti ful as completing the choir decoration.
Consult: Williams, history of the .4rf of Sculpture in. Wood (London, 1835) ; Rogers, Art of Wood-rarring g67) ; Befner-Alten eck. rnanien le der llol.zakulpfar (Frankfort, 1881-82) ; Lessing, Holzschnitzercien des 15. and 16. Jahrhunderts 1882) ; Stoekbaner, Die liolzsehnilz.erci ( Leipzig, 1887) ; Bode. (Ic s)eichls der dcutschin Nasal,: (Berlin. 1887) ; Metzger. Handbuch dcr llolzbildhaucrei (Weimar, 1892) ; and De Lostalot. Les arts du Lois (Paris, 1S93).