Sebald Beham, Large Church Festival, a woodcut

Germany
Signed and dated AD 1535

Drunkenness, lust, theft and disorder

Beham's long woodcut is organized symmetrically on either side of the central tavern. To the upper left, a wedding procession arrives at a church. On the lower right, well-dressed couples are shown dancing. Beham has borrowed from earlier woodcuts on this theme by his brother Barthel and himself to create this composite scene.

Church festivals were the only holidays (literally, holy days) that peasants at this time normally enjoyed. The Nuremberg city council seems to have regarded them with alarm: The authorities tried to reduce their number in 1525, and ban them in 1526, for reasons made very clear on this woodcut.

On the far left, wine or beer is being drawn from barrels sheltered from the sun. A drunk vomits in front of the tavern. Wine leads to both lust and violence. Two chickens copulate in front of the wedding procession. Embracing couples are everywhere to be seen, including inside the tavern. In front of the church, a patient having a tooth drawn by the dentist is also losing his purse to a thief. On the upper right, a quarrel has escalated into armed violence, and a severed hand lies on the ground.

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More information

Bibliography

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)

Dimensions

Height: 360.000 mm
Width: 1140.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1895-1-22-303 (Bartsch 168; Pauli 1245)

PPA52198

Gift of William Mitchell

Location

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