Luther's Spirit by Raplh Bakker

Exhibition  /  30 Sep 2023  -  01 Oct 2023
Published: 15.09.2023
Ralph Bakker. Bracelet: lm-b.01, 2023. Gold, silver and tantalum. . Ralph Bakker
Bracelet: lm-b.01, 2023
Gold, silver and tantalum. 
© By the author. Read Copyright.

In the middle of the Renaissance – Michelangelo had just completed the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling decorations five years earlier – on the 31st of October 1517, the Augustinian friar and professor of theology Matin Luther published his famous 95 theses (it is most unlikely that he personally hammered them onto the door of the castle chapel in Wittenberg). It was an indictment against the ever more spiraling trade in indulgences he witnessed in his own Catholic Church, and the increasing hedonistic excesses within this institution. Luther wanted to return to the essence, the simple, the personal.

Artist list

Ralph Bakker
On the 30st of September 2023 – 505 years and 11 months later – Ralph Bakker shall present his gold and silver jewellery pieces in the stately Church Hall of the Luther Museum in the Wittenberg building in Amsterdam. A huge, eighteen century edifice erected at the time to facilitate the care for the city’s Lutheran poor, elderly and orphans.

Will it be a head-on collision? It might look like it, yet there are remarkable similarities. For Bakker is also striving to work from the purest tenets, he is not interested in intensely felt stories or smart concepts. His unique designs are not aiming at ostentation or bombast, but rather intended for a private perception by the observer who will enjoy their exceptional solutions and subtle effects. Bakker fully exploits the possibilities of his materials, and excels in all sorts of artisanal techniques, from time to time even embarking on reckless experiments. There is no shortage of examples: his use of the archaic niello, a process originating in the Middle Ages, next to working in the indestructible and lightweight metal tantalum; his multitude of hammered, tumbled, or brushed finishes with their specific textures, and his own alloys – for instance to achieve tougher qualities while obtaining the hue of the purest gold.

During the 17th century already some 20 percent of the population of Amsterdam, then legally a city with a reformed denomination, adhered to the Lutheran faith. The splendid silver Communion services on display in the museum, make it clear that Lutheran principles and frugality aren’t simply synonymous. Even more striking: in 1505 Lucas Cranach-the-Elder opened his workshop in the city of Wittenberg, where he not only portrayed Luther and his circle, but also created paintings depicting women – mythological figures, saints, and princesses alike - all adorned with rich, complex necklaces. In these images Ralph Bakker’s Snap-hook Necklace would have fitted in perfectly ….

Ward Schrijver
(© Galerie Rob Koudijs)