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A descriptive catalogue of early prints in the British museum: German and Flemish schools online

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from calculations agreeing with the combinations it presents should be sought the
solution of the problem. Unfortunately, something of the negligence with which
many words have been transcribed in the body itself of the work may be found
from the first line in the arrangement of the kalendar ; in this way from the read*
ing of the latter affording only an absolutely unreasonable result, if this first line
be taken as it actually exists as the point of departure in the computation, one
is necessarily obliged to try the second line, and consequently, remonter ^ttn
eran in reading the whole of the table. Certain material indications which are

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present allbw of the supposition that such was the personal intention of the
copjist. In fact, did he not intend to indicate as much in beginning to write in
a supplementary column a second series of jears of the golden number, where
the first jear of this number is en rapport with the 1 5th of the solar cycle, that
which is proper to the year 1406P But he stopped in this work because he
became aware that it sufficed to take away a line from that part of the table con-
taining the solar cycle and the domim'cal letter to place the table en rapport with the
original golden number. If then the copyist has not corrected, or has half cor-
rected only the error committed at the outset, it is because he possessed the
secret of the modification to which the table should be subjected, in order that
he might use it without being condemned previously to the tiresomeness of re-
commencing it from one end to the other ; it is because he designed for his own
use only the documents which his pen had transcribed tant Men que tnal; in fine,
it is because he went to work as a man who, not labouring for the benefit of
others, does not take either the time or the trouble of explaining to himself the
mysteries to which he has the key, nor of repairing very carefully the mistakes
incapable in reality of compromising anything in his eyes." (Op. cit. p. 239.)

Now we cannot help feeling that a MS. of which such admissions must be
made is one the evidence of which in support of the opinion that the prints in the
maniere criblee were engraved and printed firom by the year 1406, is of too
doubtful a character to be accepted.

[4x3 in.] [Coloured.]

B. 3.

CIRCA 1460.


(No. 339, Weigkl.)

REPETITION of the print No. 3, described in the foregoing account
of a ** Passion.** This impression is evidently firom the same plate as
yielded the impression of the like subject in B. No. 2, but it must have
illustrated a dbSerent edition of the entire work, and one differing from
the Munich Passion also.

On the verso of the print are fourteen lines of typographic text, generally the
same in type and words as on the like piece in B. 2 ; but nevertheless exhibiting
certain variations which demonstrate that the leaf formed part of another edition.
For instance, the eighth line of the present example reads, Muetter in ir heiUge
echoe, while that of B. 2. runs, Mueter yn yr heilige schos. The thirteenth line
concludes with mir czw ge instead of with mir czwy as in B. 2. The last word of
the fourteenth line is here amen ; in B. 2. it is ame.

The marks for contractions over the e*s in the second line are difiTerent from
those in B. 2, while in the latter there are full points at the ends of the third and
sixth lines, which points are absent in B. 3. Other slight variations may be
observed, but those indicated are sufficient to show that part of a different edition
is before us, apparently printed from letters of the same fount or from the same
type, after the latter had suffered from employment, since the letters are in B. 3.
generally either blunter or thinner than they are in B. 2.

The impression itself is sharper and more perfect than that of B. 2* It has

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been coloured in a slightly different way to the other example. Here the loin cloth
of our Lord is of deep yellow ochre colour, in B. 2. it remains uncoloured. The
mantle of our Lady is here of a bluish grey with light pink lining; in B. 2. it is not
coloured. The mantle of St. John is here of a light pink hue ; in B. 2. it is of
brown madder colour. In the present impression there is a deep red coloured
border around the plate mark ; in B. 2. the margin remains uncoloured.

It would appear that in the well-known collection of Weigel at Leipzig there
existed two prints of this Passion, B. 2, which must haye belonged to an edition
yet different from any of those to which reference has been here made. In connec-
tion with these specimens Weigel remarks—*

^ Under No. 340 we possess two prints, 6 and 7 — the Descent to Limbus and
the Besurrection — of the Passion before described No. 338 ; yet they must have
belonged to another edition, since they have not any text upon their backs. The
Descent to Limbus is coloured as follows : — ^the glory, the staff of the banner, the
doors and house of Limbus, and the hide garment of the man kneeling are of pale
and dark yellow. The flames are of a pale carmine red ; the ground, the ara-
besque flowers, and the upper bands on the banner cloth are of a powerful green
colour. In the piece of the Resurrection the ground, the trees, some of the
trefoils on the tomb, some arabesque flowers, and the upper bands of the banner
cloth are of a strong green colour, while the cover of the tomb and the upper
border of the tomb are of a rose-red, the tree stems, the glory, and the banner
staff, as also some flowers being of a yellow colour. These tenderly coloured little
prints, which are of marked sharpness of impression, belonged probably to those
examples which were first brought into circulation.**

[4x3 in-] [Coloured.]

B. 4.

CIRCA 1470-1480.

ULM (P).

(No. 392, Wbigbl.)

IROM a heap of stones in the middle of the foreground rises the CrosK,
the scroll of inscription at the cop of which touches the upper border
line of the composition. Our Lord is dead; His head fidls on His right
shoulder and covers a third of the arm. A wreath of thorns is around
the brow, and a cruciform nimbus oyer the head. The loin cloth is narrow and
without visible ends ; the feet are crossed. There is not any suppedanemn.

On the right hand side of the Cross the Blessed Virgin is seated ; on the other
side is St. John. The former has the hands crossed upon the knees, wldle the
latter turns towards her, raising his hands as if in the act of addressing her. Oma«
mented nimbi are around the heads of both.

The entire background is diapered or chequered with (relatively) large rosettes
within lozenge-shaped forms. The technic of the Cross and of the stones is of the
dotted character, that of the draperies and of the body of Christ of frayed and
lined work.

Some colour has been applied. The wounds in the hands, feet, and side are
of a dingy carmine, as are also the cruciform parts of the nimbus. The body
piece of the tunic of the Virgin and part of the mantle of St. John are of much

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(he same oobur. Th^ stones at the foot of the Cross and the ground are of a greed
hue. A narrow black border line includes the composition.

[4 K 2f in.] [Partly coloured.]



CIRCA 1470.
(No. 347, WSIOBL.)

CN the centre of the design stands the Cross, embracing the whole height
of the print, the scroll of the inscription extending in fiict beyond the
upper border line. The transverse beam of the Cross is wide, and in
length occupies nearly the breadth of the engraving. Christ is dead.
His head resting on the right shoulder, the face expresses suffering, llie crown of
thorns is on the brow and an ornamented cruciform nimbus over the head. The
perisonium or loin cloth is bound around each hip and thigh separately, the ends
fluttering on the right (to the spectator) of the Cross. The ribs and the muscles
of the left arm are strongly marked, the patellae are very large and marked at the
centre with a cross. The fingers of each hand are not extended, but curved
inwards as if convulsively grasping the nails which have pierced the hands. The
feet are crossed, secured with a large nail, but there is not any suppedaneum. At the
foot of the Cross are large stones and a skull. On the right hand side of the Cross
(the left to the spectator) stands the Virgin with bowed head and hands crossed
upon the breast. Her mantle is large, covers the head and falls in folds on the
ground. On the other side stands St. John with head uncovered, flowing hair
and hands crossed on the chest. He looks towards Mary. Both mantle and tunic
are of rather elegant cast ; below the latter may be seen the beloved disciple*s
naked feet. Neither Mary or St. John has a nimbus over the head.

The entire background is diapered with lozenges and rosettes ; the foreground
is flowery and grassy.

The technic is stiff and formal but careful, the draperies being of dotted, the
body of our Lord of lined and frayed work. The markings of the wood of the
tree of which the Cross has been formed are strongly represented as they appear
on longitudinal section. The print has l:feen partially coloured. The Cross
and nimbus of our Lord are yellow, the wreath of thorns green, parts of the
draperies and the foreground are green and ydlow.

At the leil edge of the paper is part of a watermark, not decipherable in
character. The engraving has been motmted on the leaf of a MS. written in
double columns, and a line of cursive MS. is above the print in front.

According to Weigel the body of Christ on the bronze crucifix at the west side
of St. Sebaklus* Church at Niimberg, has great similarity with the figure of Christ
in the present design.

[7 X 4|in.] [Partly coloured.]

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B. 6.


1430 (?).


PHOTOGRAPHIC and reduced copy of a print formerly m the
'^ Donee Collection/* and now at Oxford.

In the centre of the design, which is arched at the top, stands the
Cross, occupying nearly two-thirds of the composition. On the Cross
hangs our Lord ; His head is erect, a narrow circular nimbus is aboTe it and 1^
thorn branch is tightened round the brow. A fluttering but somewhat scanty
loin cloth is present ; the right foot is placed upon the left one, there is not any
snppedaneum. On the projecting head of the upright beam of the Cross is a tablet,
on which are the letters INRI m reverse. On the left hand (to the spectator) of
the Cross stands St. John. Over his head is a very narrow nimbus ; he looks up
at Christ and raises his left hand as if in wonder. In the right hand he holds a
tablet, on the lower part of which are the letters G. H. On the other side stands
the Virgin ; she is seen in profile with slightly raised hands and looking towards
our Loi^. She is draped in a long mantie firom head to foot. At the base of the
Gross lie a skull and some bones. The foreground is very narrow and plain in
character. The general ground of the composition is of a highly decorative kind.
On the upper part, that is, from the arched top down to the tablet on the head
of the Cross, the dark ground is- closely sprinkled over with little white buds or
pearl drops, connected generally by fine hair-like branches, curving and interlacing
in a methodical manner. This general decoration is overrun by a very large
white ornament, closely simulating the designs to be met with in Persian drawings
and manuscripts and in Moorish adornments. This ornament springs up by two
bands from above the inscription on the Cross. Below it the general ground is
formed of very small white punctations, over which runs a mass of leaves and buds
of a conventional description, connected by delicate curved branche6 rising by
single stems from each side of the Cross near its foot. On the background between
the Virgin and the edge of the print is a tree rising from out a rounded mass
of herbage. This tree comes white off the ground and bears on its trunk the date
M . cccc . zxx. Between St. John and the edge of the print are parts of the
rounded surface and ground of another plate, which had been simk apparently in
the larger plate at its lower portion. The ornamentation of this second plate if
of a like kind to that before described.

Around the general design, with the exception of the lower comer, where
the second plate has been inserted, runs a narrow border, in which is a spiral band
having little buds or pearl drops between the coils. A like border runs round
the inner edge of the second plate. Along the border of the general design are
the marks of three holes on the left hand side, and of four on the right hand side
of the plate. The second plate edge shows traces of one hole near the shoulder
of St. John.

We are of opinion that the original metal, from an impression from which the
photographic copy befinre us has been taken, was a forgery of comparatively modem
times. The peculiar mixture of technics and of the ornamentation of different
periods and styles, the bad and almost childish drawing of the two figures by the
Cross, the character and work of the tree bearing the date, the date itself and the
presence of a portion of a second plate intruding on the other metal, are sufficient

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in themseWes to excite strong suipicion as to the genuine antique character of the

In addition to these circumstances we cannot help being influenced also bj the
following account given bj Dr. Dibdin in the third volume of his *' Bibliographical
and Antiquarian Tour.** Supplement, p. xxxiv. Alluding to the treasures of
Baron Derschau at NUmberg (▲.d. l8l8), Dr. Dibdin remarks —

'* The Baron laid the greatest stress upon a copper-plate impression of a
crucifixion of the date of 1430, which undoubtedly had a very staggering aspect.
.... I will describe this singular specimen of old as briefly and perspicuously as I
am able. It consists of an impression in pale black ink — ^resembling very much
that of aquatint, of a subject cut upon copper or brass, which is about seventeen
inches in height (the top being a little cut-away) and about ten inches six-eighths
in width. The upper part of the impression is in the shape of an obtusely pointed, or
perhi^ rather semicircular gothic window, and is filled by involutions of forms or
patterns with great freedom of play and grace of composition : resembling the stained
glass in the upper parts of the more elaborated gothic windows at the beginning of
the fifteenth century. Round the outer border of the subject there are seven
white circular holes, as if the metal fh>m which the impression was taken had been
nailed up against a wall — and these blank spots were the results of the apertures
caused by the spaces formerly occupied by the nails. Below is the subject of the
Crucifixion. The cross is ten inches high ; the figure of Christ without the glory
six inches. St. John is to the left, and the Mother of Christ to the right of the
cross, and each of these figures is about four inches high. The drawing and
execution of these three figures are barbarously puerile. To the left of St. John
is a singular appearance of the iqtper part oi another plate running at right angles
with the principal, and composed also in the form of the lipper portion of a gothic
window. To the right of tiie Virgin and of the plate, is the ' staggering * date
above mentioned. It is thus : m . cccc . xxx. This date is fixed upon the stem
of a tree of which both the stem and the branches above appear to have been
scraped, in the copper almost white — for the sake of introducing the inscription or
date. The date, moreover, has a very suspicious look in regard to the execution
of the letters of which it is composed. As to ihe paper upon which the impres-
sion is taken it has doubtless much of the look of old paper ; but not of that
particular kind, either in regard to tone or quality which we see in the prints of
Mechlin, Schoen or Albert Durer. But what gives a more ' staggering aspect *
to the whole affair b that the worthy Derschau had another copy of this same
impression, which he sold to Mr. John Payne, and which is now in the highly
curious collection of Mr. Douce. This was fortunate to say the least. The copy
purchased by myself is now in the collection of Earl Spencer.**

Were it not for the intrinsic characters of the style and work, &c. before men-
tioned, it might be allowed perhaps that the original metal plate was truly a genuine
one of the period of which it asserts itself to be, and was in the possession of Baron
Derschau, who had caused several impressions to be worked off from it, disposing
of them when opportunity offered as veritable antiques. But even this more
venial crime is not the only one in our opinion which has been here perpetrated.
Whether the Baron was particepe criminis in the manufacture of the original
plate as well as of the modem impressions cannot be determined, but that he
knew the impressions he sold were not old ones can scarcely be doubted.

It is proper to state, however, that another view of the matter has been taken
by Nagler, who under the heading G.H. N^ 3049, Monogrammisten, voL iL
p. 1065, remarks —

" A large print exists representing Christ on the Cross and the Donatoren at
the foot of it. The man holds a banderole with G. H. on it, and the woman kneels
[«tc] in adoration. The ground is decorated afler the manner of old pictures on
gold grounds, but the engraver has punctated the work in a very unsatisfactory
manner. The model for this copper -plate engraving was probably a picture be-

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lonjnng to the first half of the fifteenth century. On the right hand below stands
in &ct the date m . cccc . xxz. The letters G. H. on the banderole may signify
the name of the Donators, or of the painter, bnt then only in the case that he is
here represented along with his wife. The engraving is rounded at the top.**

As we consider that the two fig^ires at the foot of the Cross are provided with
nimbi, we cannot regard them as representing either Donators or painter and

[ 1 1 y X 7 in.] [Uncoloured.]

B. 7.



k HE composition is a large one for the maniire criblee, being contained
on a folio sheet, which when entire was at least 1 Si 'inches high bj
lO|- inches wide. Within these limits, however, broad borders of in-
scriptions have to be reckoned.
In the centre stands the Cross, on which is Christ crucified. To the left of the
spectator is a cross on which hangs the good thief; to the right a cross on which
writhes the bad one. There is considerable difference between the sizes of the
central Cross and Figure and those of the lateral crosses and the forms upon them.
The transverse beam of the central Cross is 6^ inches in length, and the Crucified
is a figure of the like dimension in height, while the transverse beam of the cross on
the left hand is but little more than 2|-ths of an inch long, and the figure on it if quite
extended would not exceed 3 inches f ths in height.

Christ is already dead, the head hangs over the right shoulder ; the body is
meagre, but the trunk and lower extremities are not badly indicated with the
exception of the toes. The arms, particularly the right arm, are very unsatis-
factory. The thickness of the hair of the head and beard is strongly marked.
A wreath of thorns is around the brow, an ornamented cruciform nimbus over
the head. The fingers appear to have grasped convulsively the large nails by
which the hands were pierced and affixed. A well though somewhat stiffly cast
perizoninm covers the pelvis, the ends of the cloth hanging over the right hip.
The feet are crossed (the right foot over the left as usual), and both secured to
the Cross by one large sharply conical-headed nail ; there is not any suppedaneum.
AboTe the projecting head of the upright beam of the Cross rise two short staves,
between which is a waved scroll, having on it the letters I N R I with large
rosettes between them. In the delineation of the Cross a curious error through
fbrgetfnlness has been committed. It may be noticed, e^. that the perpendicular
perspective sides of all the crosses are those to the right hand of the spectator,
and as such they are represented with the exception of the central Cross, in which
the perspective side of the upright beam is on the left hand.

The time or action is that of the piercing of the chest of Christ by one of the sol-
diers, who firom a remote period has been distinguished through one form of a legend
as ^ Longinus.** In this legend, Longinus is described as having a defective sight.
As he thrust the spear into our Lord's side some blood fell upon his hand, which
being applied to his eyes his vision immediately became perfected. In the repre-
sentation of this event in later times, another soldier is made to properly guide the
lance which Longinus holds in his hand. After the latter had thus received his

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sight, ** he turned awaj repentant and sought the Apostles, bj whom he was bap-
tized, and received into the Church of Christ. Afterwards he retired to Csdsarea,
and dwelt there for twenty-eight jears, converting numbers to the Christian faith ;
but at the end of that time he was seized bj order of the governor, and ordered
to sacrifice to the false gods. St. Longinus not only refused, but being impatient
to receive the crown of martyrdom, he assured the governor, who was blind, that
he would recover his sight only afler putting him to death. Accordingly, the
governor commanded that he should be beheaded, and immediately his sight was
restored ; and he also became a Christian, but St. Longinus was received into
eternal glory, being ' the first-fruits of the Church.* This wild legend, which is
of great antiquity, was early repudiated by the Church ; it remained, however,
popular among the people, and it is necessary to keep it in mind in order to
understand the significance given to the figure of the centurion in most of the
ancient pictures of the Crucifixion.** (** Sacred and Legendary Art,*' p. 463.) ^

On the lefl of the Cross (to the spectator) is Longinus on horseback ; a long
spear in his right hand, the point of which has pierced our Lord*s side : **unus mili-
tum lancea latus ejus aperuit et continuo exivit sanguis et aqua.** ( Johan : xix. 34.)

Longinus has thrown back his head, and applies his left hand to his eye.
Before Longinus is represented an attendant, also on horseback, who guides with
his left hand the end of Longinus* lance, and points upward towards Christ with
his light hand. The back of this soldier is turned to the spectator. Longinus is here,
so far, kept distinct from the centurion, with whom he is sometimes confounded.
*•*' Later times,** writes Lady £astlake, '' have pronounced this spearman [Longinus]
to be one and the same as the centurion, who was converted by the signs following
the death of Christ . . . This is a curious instance of the tendency of all such inven-
tions to overreach themselves. It is not that the simplicity of the sacred narra-
tive is disturbed, but its inherent logic utterly disregarded. This has of course
Uttracted the attention of Catholic as well as of Protestant writers. De Tillemont,
in his ' Histoire Ecclcsiastique,* exclaims, ' Is it to be believed that the same man
dared to pierce the side of one whom he himself had just confessed to be the Son
of €rod P * So much for the identity of these two separate individuals — an idea
never dreamt of by early Art, which, representing successive actions simultaneously,
frequently shows Longinus piercing the side, whilst the centurion holds up his
hand and exclaims, *■ Truly this was the Son of God.* We see the two together
in Giotto and in Martin Schon, and even as late as in Gaudensio Ferrari — the
blunder of confounding these two individuals is therefore as recent as it is absurd.**
(" History of our Lord,** vol. ii. p. 1 60.)

In the representation before us, the centurion is on the other side of the Cross
to Longinus. He is mounted, wears armour on the trunk and arms, and bears in
his left hand a long and pennoned lanoe, on the banner of which is represented
a scorpion. The centurion has on a plumed cap and bears a straight sword at

Online LibraryBritish Museum. Dept. of Prints and DrawingsA descriptive catalogue of early prints in the British museum: German and Flemish schools → online text (page 9 of 40)