The works of art seen in this collection were mostly made between 1450 and 1650 in the Holy Roman Empire, which roughly corresponds to modern-day Germany and the Low Countries.
In the 1520s the area became the battleground for the Catholic and Protestant faiths, starting two centuries of bitter religious conflict in Europe. Reformers targeted religous iconography, some being destroyed and others dismantled and dispersed.
Northern European artists developed a style distinct from their southern European counterparts, typified by enthusiastic representation of minute detail and the use of much gilding and polychromy. Several of the works in this collection come from near Nuremberg in southern Germany, which from 1450 to 1550 was home to an important circle of artists and craftsmen, including sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider.