The Portland Vase, £5.00
Height: 212.000 mm
Width: 151.000 mm
PD 1895-1-22-379 (CD II, 85, 46 III)
Prints and Drawings
Hans Burgkmair, Lovers Surprised by Death, a woodcut
Germany, dated AD 1510 on first state
A colour woodcut printed from three blocks
The image of Death became widespread in late medieval Christian art, particularly in Germany. Rarely in art, however, did Death shatter the lives of mortals with the violence shown here by Burgkmair (1473-1531).
The young soldier has been flung to the ground by the ghastly spectre, which tears his jaws apart as it stamps out his soul. The terrified girl pulls in vain to release her dress from its clamped teeth. The background of this scene shows evidence that Burgkmair had visited Venice. A gondola floats on a canal, Venetian chimney pots break the skyline, and the figures wear classical clothes under a Renaissance portico. Six years later the Venetian Ugo da Carpi claimed for himself the invention of chiaroscuro printing.
The signed print
is also famous as the first chiaroscuro
G. Bartrum, German Renaissance prints, 149, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)
D. Landau and P. Parshall, The Renaissance print 1470-155 (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1994)
A. Griffiths (ed.), Landmarks in print collecting (London, The British Museum Press)