OUTSTANDING REFORMATION WOODCUTS

Doctrina, vita et passio Iesu Christi.

Frankfurt, C. Egenolph, [1537].

£27,500

FIRST EDITION. 8vo. 40 unnumbered ff., A-K4. Roman or large Gothic letter. 74 outstanding full-page woodcuts with scenes from the life of Christ and the Apostles. Slight browning, first and last three ll. reinforced at gutter, occasional repair to few blank margins, tiny marginal worm trail at foot of first few ll. A good copy in contemporary limp vellum, recased, traces of ties, title inked to spine, little worming, C17 annotations to lower blank margin of couple of ll.

Fresh copy, in fine impression, of the first edition of this outstanding series of woodcuts on the life and passion of Christ. Hans Schäufelein (c.1435-c.1539) was active at Dürer’s Nuremberg workshop in 1503-4 and at Hans Holbein the Elder’s in Augsburg before 1515. After settling in Nördlingen, he collaborated with major German artists like Altdorfer on woodcuts designed for the Emperor Maximilian I (‘German Engravings’, XLII, 83). His outstanding woodcut production embraced subjects as varied as city views, costumes, military scenes, illustrated ballads, festivals, gaming cards and, most of all, sacred stories. ‘Doctrina’ is a masterful witness to Reformation ‘emotional religiosity’ and new Protestant northern European devotional practice by which pious men and women were encouraged ‘to approach the Divine through intimate knowledge and emphatic experience of Christ’s humanity’ (‘Passion Iconography’, 1, 3). The cycle begins from the Annunciation and proceeds through the key events of his life to the various phases of the Passion, ending with the Pentecost; the second part depicts important scenes involving Christ and the Apostles. That this work sought to cater to a broad readership is shown by the captions, both in Latin and the vernacular. The C17 annotator of this copy was especially interested in scenes of the Passion—the Last Supper, the Washing of the Feet, the Flagellation, the Carrying of the Cross and the Crucifixion—which he glossed with captions taken from Jacques Callot’s series of prints ‘La Grande Passion’ (c.1618). The Catholic Callot’s captions thus accompany a Protestant representation of the Passion. E.g., whilst Schäufelein’s Christ is angrily pointing at the traitor Judas in the Protestant fashion, with no chalice and a simple plate of food in front of him, the caption marks a comment on Callot’s Catholic communion of the Apostles and Christ’s blessing of the food, so that his body may become ‘cibus’—one of the very issues of discord between the two religious ideologies (Schiller, ‘Iconography’, II, 38-41). A handsome artistic monument, in fresh impression, to popular Reformation devotion, with fascinating annotation.

Brunet II, 780; Fairfax Murray 393. Not in BM STC Ger. Hollstein’s German Engravings (Rotterdam, 1996-97), vol. XLII; J.H. Marrow, Passion Iconography in Northern European Art (Kortrijk, 1979); G. Schiller, The Iconography of Christian Art (London, 1972), II.

L3240

Print This Item Print This Item