Prints and printmaking, £12.99
Height: 395.000 mm
Width: 285.000 mm
PD 1972-U-1047 (Campbell-Dodgson A.10, Schreiber 265)
Prints and Drawings
Christ before Herod, a woodcut
Germany, around AD 1400
The earliest woodcut in The British Museum's collections
In the late Middle Ages, people would instantly have recognized the subject as Christ before Herod (Luke 23:9). A crowned king seated on a throne raises one hand in a formal gesture of address. Facing him, a standing figure with a halo and bound hands is pushed forward by an armed guard, supported by nine soldiers.
Although papermaking was established in Germany in the 1390s at this early date there was no printing press, which appeared fifty years later when Gutenberg perfecting the process of printing text with movable type. The paper was probably laid on the inked woodblock and rubbed from the back. The ink has printed imperfectly in places, as is apparent on Christ's face.