Collection online

Standard-bearers of the Swiss Confederation / Schaffhausen

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • Schaffhausen

    Title (series)

    • Standard-bearers of the Swiss Confederation
  • Description

    whole-length male figure, his head in profile to left; a ram and Nativity on the banner; from a series of sixteen woodcuts. 1521 White-line woodcut

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1521
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 190 millimetres
    • Width: 109 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Signed with monogram with the dagger and dated in the block. Also lettered "SCHAF/ HUSEN".
  • Curator's comments

    BM has ten of the series of sixteen Standard-Bearers. See G. Bartrum, 'German Renaissance Prints', exh. cat., BM, London 1995, no.223a.

    Text from Bartrum 1995
    Literature: His, 293; Hollstein, p.60, 38

    Graf's series of sixteen 'Standard-bearers' represents his most impressive woodcuts. They were made in an unusual method of cutting and printing the blocks so that the design showed up as white on black. Unlike black-line woodcuts, which involve removing wood from the block to leave the design standing in relief, the parts incised here are the actual lines of the artist's drawing. The success of the image depends to a much greater extent on precise incisions, and it is quite possible that the highly skilled block-cutter Hans Lützelburger, who is best known for his work in Basel with Holbein (see 1858,0417.1*-25*), could have cut these designs for Graf. Graf designed two other recorded white-line woodcuts, the 'Family of Satyrs' in 1520 and a 'Standard-Bearer Marching to the Right' in 1527 (Hollstein, 66, 47 and p. 64, 45), but very few other woodcuts were made in this manner in the sixteenth century.
    The emphatic appearance of outlines in the white-line woodcut is particularly suited to Graf's subject of strutting standard-bearers. The series was made at a period when Switzerland was asserting its military independence: in 1499, a peace made at Basel ended war in Swabia and effectively freed Switzerland from the Holy Roman Empire, while in 1516 a peace made with France confirmed many Swiss conquests and allowed the French to recruit troops in Switzerland, which implied Swiss international neutrality. Graf himself was an experienced mercenary soldier, a profession which in Switzerland, unlike elsewhere, was held in high esteem. Swiss mercenaries were known as 'Keislaufer' and considered themselves far superior to their German equivalents, the 'Landsknechte', of whom Graf made numerous satirical drawings. For further information on this subject see, F. Bächtiger, 'Andreaskreuz und Schweizerkreuz: zur Feindschaft zwischen Landsknechten und Eidgenossen', in 'Jahrbuch des Bernischen Historischen Museums', LI-LII, 1971-72, Bern, 1975, pp. 205ff.
    A series of engraved copies of the 'Standard-Bearers of the Swiss Confederation' was made by Virgil Solis (1514-62).


  • Bibliography

    • Bartrum 1995 223a bibliographic details
    • Hollstein 60.38 bibliographic details
    • Bartsch Undescribed bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (German XVIc Mounted Roy)

  • Exhibition history

    1995 Jun-Oct, BM, 'German Renaissance Prints, 1490-1550', no.223a

  • Subjects

  • Associated places

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


WL male figure, his head in profile to l; a ram and Nativity on the banner; from a series of sixteen woodcuts.  1521 White-line woodcut

WL male figure, his head in profile to l; a ram and Nativity on the banner; from a series of sixteen woodcuts. 1521 White-line woodcut

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: PPA65718

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help