- Museum number
- Object: Der Kunig von Gutzin
The King of Cochin; a procession of natives of India, with on left group in a wood with animals, in the centre warriors brandishing weapons, on the right their leader carried on a palanquin with musicians, printed from three blocks on eight unequal sheets joined to form a continuous frieze. 1508
- Production date
Height: 275 millimetres (maximum)
Width: 1105 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- See Mark McDonald, 'Burkgmair's woodcut frieze of natives of Africa and India' in 'Print Quarterly' XX 2003, pp.227-44 for a reconstruction of the frieze of which this is only a part (no complete impression survives, and certain blocks have been completely lost). It shows the peoples of India (the group with animals on the left), and the Kingdom of Cochin (the procession of the right). The frieze was commissioned to illustrate the report by Balthasar Springer of a voyage made by German traders in 1505-6 around Africa to India to try to break the Venetian monopoly of the spice trade. It was based on drawings brought back by the expedition. Cochin is the region in the very south of India which was the furthest point reached by Springer.
Text from Bartrum 1995
Literature: Bartsch, 77; C.Dodgson, II, p.71, 11(1); Burkhard 13, 3-5; Hollstein, 733-5
These three blocks come from a set of eight, which was originally printed in the format of a frieze some 2 m in length, and was based on a short report by Balthasar Springer published in 1508 of the first voyage made by German traders in 1505-6 to Africa, Arabia and the East Indies. Three German ships participated in a squadron of twenty under the Portuguese command of Francisco d'Almeida. The expedition was sponsored by the Welsers, the Fuggers and other leading merchants of Augsburg in an attempt to break the Venetian domination of the spice trade, and their purchases included spices, precious stones, silks and carpets which were exchanged predominantly for copper from mines owned by the Fuggers. A second edition of Springer's short report appeared in 1511. In 1509 Springer issued a longer description of the voyage as a book, which was illustrated with woodcuts designed in two different hands in a rudimentary style and printed on separate pages, under the title: 'Die Merfart ... zu viln onerkanten Inseln vnd Künigreichen' (see C. Dodgson II, p. 72). Some of the woodcuts in this book are loosely related to Burgkmair's set, others are different, and it is likely that Springer returned from the voyage with sketches, as well as weapons and objects on which the designs for both the 1508 and 1509 projects were based.
Burgkmair's set of woodcuts is remarkable for being the first multi-block frieze of a single subject to be printed in the north and he later used this method of design on a particularly grand scale in his 'Triumph of Maximilian' (1845,0809.683). However, large woodcuts had already been produced in this way in Italy. Burgkmair must have been influenced by the monumental prints of the Venetian Jacopo de' Barbari, such as his famous 'Bird's-Eye View of Venice' of 1500, which was printed from six blocks, and also his 'Triumph of Men over Satyrs' of the late 1490s (Passavant, III, p. 141, 32), printed from three blocks. The woodcut 'Triumph of Caesar', designed by Jacob of Strasbourg and printed from twelve blocks in Venice in 1504 (Passavant, I, p. 133, I), was inspired by the famous painted frieze of the same subject by Andrea Mantegna, then in Mantua and now in the Royal collection (Hampton Court), and is also an important precedent.
The topical subject and the novel appearance of Burgkmair's illustrations of the inhabitants of the countries visited by the traders was apparently very popular, but judging from their scarcity their success was, like any news item, probably shortlived, and they were certainly never considered as collectors' items. No complete edition of the set, which would have resembled a broadside with Springer's descriptive text placed above the woodcuts - the tree in the centre has been truncated to leave space for this purpose - has survived. Four woodcuts have survived with the description still attached; these are to be found, with half of another woodcut from the set, in the Welser family foundation (see Biedermann and Hausberger 23-26). The series is otherwise known from a small number of mostly late impressions of the individual woodcuts and copies, such as the set by Georg Glockendon of 1511, which shows some additional details and a variation in the arrangement of some of the figures (impressions in the British Museum, inv. nos 1895,0122.403, 1926,1214.19-21; and in the castle at Coburg, see C. Andersson and C. Talbot, 'From a Mighty Fortress: Prints, Drawings and Books in the Age of Luther, 1483-1546', exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts, 1981, no. 113).
1895,0122.405-407 was printed during the eighteenth century when the blocks had become damaged and broken; the block for the woodcut on the left has split, its edges are missing and the two groups of figures have been positioned the wrong way round (see 1922,0610.12). During the nineteenth century, the blocks were in the Derschau collection and were restored before being reprinted; they are now in the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin. The block with the bearers and attendants of the King of Cochin is signed on the back with the monogram of the block-cutter Cornells Liefrinck (active 1508-before 1545), who came from a prominent family of printers in Antwerp (see Kroll and Schade, p. 39).
Additional lit.: S. Brisman, 'Albrecht Dürer & the Epistolary Mode of Address', Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2017, fig. 2.23
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1995 Jun-Oct, BM, 'German Renaissance Prints, 1490-1550', no.130
2004 Jun-July, Madrid, 'LaCaixa', Ferdinand Columbus
2004 Oct-Dec, Seville, Salon Alto del Apeadero, Ferdinand Columbus
2005 Feb-June, British Museum
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number