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Hans Baldung, called 'Grien', Witches' Sabbath, a woodcut

 

Height: 375.000 mm
Width: 254.000 mm

PD 1834-7-12-73 (Bartsch 55)

Prints and Drawings

    Hans Baldung, called 'Grien', Witches' Sabbath, a woodcut

    Germany, AD 1510

    A colour woodcut printed from two blocks

    Hans Baldung (1485-1545) had a personal fascination with magic and the supernatural, as is clear from his many woodcuts. He came from a professional Strasbourg family, but worked from 1503 to 1507 in Dürer's workshop in Nuremberg. In 1510 another Strasbourg artist, Hans Wechtlin, employed the new technique of colour woodcut to suggest light and shade. Baldung however has used his tone block to establish the mood of his sinister subject, which he could vary from impression to impression by changing the ink colour, or by printing from the black line block alone.

    Baldung's obsession with magic and witchcraft gave vivid expression to the fears of religious heresy, social dissolution, and hidden female powers that preyed on the late medieval imagination. The woodcut was published in Strasbourg, whose bishop had been made executor of a papal bull against witchcraft in 1484. Three years later, the Malleus Maleficarum, a terrible handbook for rooting out witchcraft, was also published in Strasbourg, and ran to many editions.

    The signed and dated print shows four naked women surrounded by the paraphernalia of their black art. To the shrieking incantation of an old woman, her young companion lifts the lid off a pot from which fumes and unspeakable ingredients sweep high into the night air. A fifth woman rides backwards through the sky on a goat.

    G. Bartrum, German Renaissance prints, 149, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

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