This reliquary bust was carved around 1505, and was built to house a relic of St. Afra. It was likely originally placed in the St. Afra convent outside Wurzburg (see the incredible sandstone altar at Maidbronn, attached to the old convent).
St. Afra was a third century saint, originally from the nearby city of Augsburg.
Much of Riemenschneider’s work was polychromed originally, but this piece shows clear signs of rework - it’s been touched up since 1505. The back pieces are very detailed for a bust of this type, so it seems likely it was meant for display in the round. On the other hand, the figure is compressed in depth, in the same way a carved relief is. Walking around the piece in its isolated vitrine gives a weird sense of exaggerated or distorted foreshortening; it’s kind of delightful to experience in person.
This piece is located in Munich’s Bavarian National Museum, the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum.