Artists who worked in ivory also favored boxwood, as its dense, fine grain allowed the most precise and intricate of carving. Connoisseurs especially admired the virtuosity of sculptors capable of cutting figures from a single block while endowing them with the freedom of action associated with bronze sculpture. The base in this allegorical representation of Avarice is carved from the same block of wood, its irregular, stacked slabs evoking the raw material out of which the figure is rendered. Leonhard Kern was perhaps the most notable seventeenth-century carver specializing in small-scale sculpture. He had traveled to Italy and was familiar with the bronzes produced there, as well as with the antique. Hi nude figures may stem from this familiarity, though Avarice—rooted in northern traditions of genre—is markedly unheroic and unidealized. The allegorical interpretation of this work is suggested by the inclusion of a bag of gold as an attribute in the figure's left hand.

Turn the Sculpture Yourself
Leonhard Kern
German, 1588–1662
Old Woman Seated Holding a Bag of Gold (Avarice)