- Museum number
Allegory of salvation and damnation; a sheet of sketches including an image combining a ship and a church (representing the Christian church), at right devils with wings or tails, at left figures kneeling before a crowned female figure seated on a throne
Pen and brown ink
Verso: Allegory of the way of life and the way of death; sheet of sketches including a landscape with oxen pulling a cart towards the entrance of a church or castle, below two figures in a chariot, pulled by a pig and another animal
Pen and brown ink
- Production date
- 1490-1497 (circa)
Height: 208 millimetres
Width: 285 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Summary of J.Rowlands, 'Drawings by German Artists and Artists from German-speaking regions of Europe in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum: the Fifteenth Century, and the Sixteenth Century by Artists born before 1530', London, BM Press, 1993, no. 5:
'The image of the Christian Church as a ship is well known from early Christian writings, and the ideas of human life seen as a voyage towards a spiritual goal in an ark or ship of the Church over a turbulent and dangerous sea is a persistent theme in German poetry from the ‘Ezzolied’ of c.1060 to the mystical ‘Lieder’ of the late middle ages. It was also the subject of a series of sermons by Johannes Geiler von Kaysersberg (1445-1510), first preached in Strassburg, the probable home town of the Master of the Drapery Studies, in 1501. A woodcut illustrating Geiler's allegory of the Ship of Salvation appears on a separately printed sheet inserted into ‘Das Schiff des Heils’ by Johann Maier von Eck (1486-1543), published in Strassburg in 1512 (G. Llompart, 'Gesamm. Aufsätze', xxv, 1970, pp. 311ff., pl. 6; incorrectly dated 1507), but its composition bears no strong resemblance to the present sheet.
Pictorial representations of the Ship of the Church during the fifteenth century are not uncommon, but they are not usually shown in conjunction with representations of the Vices, as seen here. They often display a figure of Christ on the Cross as a mast, which is present in this composition, but instead of showing an actual building of a church, the ship is more usually filled with figures who represent the faithful on their voyage to salvation (see ‘Lexikon der christ. Ikonog’., iv, pp. 61-67). An anonymous woodcut of a German Romanesque church in a ship, entitled ‘Ecclesia in navi cum suis remis inclinata fluctuante’, which appears in Johannes Lichtenberger’s ‘Pronosticatio in Latino’, was published in Strassburg in 1488 (facsimile edited by W. Harry Rylands, Manchester, 1890, signature B.i, with colour reproduction at end), but its design is much simpler than the present sheet.
Winkler suggested that this composition derives from a Netherlandish work, probably of the 1480s or 1490s, which is otherwise unknown. The devils are reminiscent of the style of Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450-1516); the motif of a figure seated under a canopy on the left-hand side of the recto is similar to that seen in the work of early Netherlandish artists such as the Master of Flémalle; and the type of Gothic architecture depicted is inspired by Netherlandish or French, not German buildings. The technique of the drawings and their inscriptions, some of which are in German, are, however, typical of the Master of the Drapery Studies. Similar inscriptions are seen on his drawing of the ‘Last Judgement’ in Paris (Bibliothèque Nationale, inv. no. L.2; Lugt, ‘Bibl. Nat’., pls. ii, iii) which also appears to be done after a Netherlandish work.
The composition of a sixteenth-century Spanish painting, the ‘Ship of the Church’ in the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, Madrid, also bears some influence of Bosch and displays some similar ideas to the recto of 1847,0306.12 (G. Llompart, ‘Gesamm. Aufsätze’, xxv, 1970, pp. 324ff., pl. 7). In particular, the 'port' of salvation on the left plays an equivalent role in the painting to that of the seated figure who receives the blessed on the left of the recto of 1847,0306.12.
The biblical source for the subject on the verso is Matthew vii, 13, and to some extent Luke xiii, 24.'
Roth (1988, p.186) groups the drawing together with fourteen other drawings of religious compositions which are all notable for a strong Netherlandish influence and were probably done in the 1490s.
Watermark: fleur-de-lis within a crowned shield, repr. in Rowlands, i, p.267 (similar to Piccard, ii, 1175)
Lit from Rowlands 1993: F. Winkler, Wallraf Jahrbuch, NF, i, 1930, pp. 134, 152, pl. 132 (verso); BM Dürer and Holbein, pp. 423, no. 21, repr.
Further lit: M.Roth, unpublished dissertation, 'Die Zeichnungen des 'Meisters der Coburger Rundblätter', Berlin, 1988, no. 73,
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1988, July-Oct, BM, Age of Dürer & Holbein, no. 21
2014/15 Dec-Feb, BM, (Con)textual Readings: Word and Image
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number