Collection online

satirical print / print

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Devil playing the bagpipes; perched on the shoulders of a monk whose head forms the bagpipe. c.1530
    Hand-coloured woodcut with eyes and markings added in black ink

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1530 (circa)
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 320 millimetres
    • Width: 240 millimetres
  • Curator's comments

    BM also has a copy with letterpress text.
    See also Giulia Bartrum, 'German Renaissance Prints', exh. cat., BM, London 1995, no.82.

    Text from Bartrum 1995
    Literature: Röttinger 144

    This is one of the most striking images to be seen among the vast number of broadsheets directed by the reformers against the Roman Catholic church. The image of the Devil perched on the shoulders of a monk, through whose ears and nose he "plays his tune", is made particularly pungent by the more usual association of bagpipes with lust. The idea that monks were the instruments of the Devil was common and resulted in numerous woodcuts showing them as thinly disguised monsters. Scribner has commented that the enormous popularity of these prints must be associated with a proverb linking monks with the Devil which was in current use before the Reformation: "Misfortune has broad feet, said the peasant, as he saw the monk coming" (see Scribner, p. 134).
    Another impression of this woodcut in the Schloss-museum, Gotha (Röttinger, pl. 5), shows that the Devil's grimace on his belly is seen in profile to the right, rather than looking out at the spectator, which is the effect created here by the addition of eyes in black ink. It also has eight lines of letterpress in the lower right corner, in which the Devil laments of a past age, presumably brought to a close by the reformers' activities, when he was able to play his 'pipes'; although he is sure that man's sinful and cunning nature will put an end to his grief before long: "Vor zeytten Pfiff ich hin and her/ Aus solchen Pfeiffen dicht und mer / Vil fabel Trewm und fanthasey/ Ist yetsundt auß und gar entzwey/ Das ist mir leyd auch schwer und bang/ Doch hoff ich es wer auch nit lang/ Die weyl die welt so furwitz ist/ Sündtlich dürchisch vol arger list".
    There is a sixteenth-century woodcut copy of this print in the British Museum (inv. no. 1870,0625.560; not in Dodgson) with twenty-one lines of letterpress. This also conveys an anti-Catholic sentiment in its description of the Devil, who infiltrated all the monastic orders in his search for an unscrupulous cleric, until he eventually found 'Friar Nose' (Bruder Nasen) whom he transformed into his instrument. The widespread circulation of a broadsheet such as this makes it possible that a copy of it could also have been used as a potent tool against the reformers, and it has been noted that this could be construed as a caricature of Luther as he was himself a monk; however, no such print is known with the addition of a suitable anti-Lutheran text (see 'Martin Luther und die Reformation in Deutschland', exh. cat., edited by Gerhard Bott, Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 1983, no. 301; Pauline Smith, 'Continuity and Change in Renaissance Satire', University of Hull Press, 1993, pp. 3f).


  • Bibliography

    • Hollstein 80.II bibliographic details
    • Bartrum 1995 82 bibliographic details
    • Dodgson 1903, 1911 Undescribed bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (German XVIc Mounted Roy)

  • Exhibition history

    1983 Jun-Sep, Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 'Martin Luther'
    1995 Jun-Oct, BM, 'German Renaissance Prints, 1490-1550', no.82
    1996 Jun-Aug, Canterbury, Royal Mus and AG, German Renaissance Prints
    1996 Nov-Dec, Edinburgh, NG of Scotland, German Renaissance Prints
    1997 Jan-Mar, Cardiff, Nat Mus of Wales, German Renaissance Prints
    1997 Apr-May, Llandudno, Oriel Mostyn Gallery, German Renaissance Prints
    1997 Oct-Dec, Norwich, Sainsbury Centre, German Renaissance Prints

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


Devil playing the bagpipes; perched on the shoulders of a monk whose head forms the bagpipe.  c.1530  Hand-coloured woodcut with eyes and markings added in black ink

Devil playing the bagpipes; perched on the shoulders of a monk whose head forms the bagpipe. c.1530 Hand-coloured woodcut with eyes and markings added in black ink

Image description



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Object reference number: PPA79959

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