|Printmaking and the Reformation |
Engraving Depicting a Renaissance Printmaking Shop
|Context: One of the major innovations of the Renaissance, much like our own information revolution concerning the internet, was the invention of the movable type printing press. Two majors forms had been around for several hundred years already. Engraving and woodblock printing but this innovation was something new. The movable type printing press, perfected most likely by Johannes Gutenberg (1398-1468), created an information revolution. What made the movable type printing press so significant was the fact that it used reusable interchangable parts to create pages of texts. In the large illustration on the left is a man putting precarved blocks (made out of medal or wood) in to small compartments in a larger tray. Above the tray is the original manuscript which he is "typesetting." The page once it had been set would be run through a printing press for a series of images and then once enough copies had been made, the block would be dumped out, sorted and then reused in another page. |
The major benefit to this process is speed and economy. Since the individual pages didn't need to be carved from scratch, half the time was needed to print off a series of pages. It was also cheaper because less labor and materials were needed.
In the past, books and especially the Bible, were often hand made. Monks or scribes would hand copy and decorate each page individually and the major producer or publisher of such manuscripts was the Catholic Church. With this new technology, wealthy individuals could now afford to print off multiple sets of books and flyers with their ideas. The text of the Bible, whose cost was prohibitively expensive and also outlawed to anyone but the Cathloic clergy, could now be printed up at much less cost. The equivalenyt of these events would be our ability to send off a mass e-mail, print out multiple copies of a flyer at a copy shop and or post documents to the web. This is called "self-publishing."
New books were now being published and copies of Gutenberg's famous Bible were being mass produced and this lead to the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in the North of Europe and the writings of Martin Luther who used this movable type press to circulate his ideas. This lead to the "Reformation"
Martin Luther was the leader of the religious movement known as the Reformation. After reading a passage in the Book of Romans, he had a greater understanding about the judgment of God—basically that anyone could go straight to God and ask for forgiveness for their sins. This, of course, went against what Catholicism taught which was that people could only speak to God through an intermediary (usually a priest) and that the only way to get a speedy ticket out of Purgatory was to buy one’s way out. This led Luther to write the "95 Theses."
There was a great outcry against Luther by the Pope about the "95 Theses." This led Luther to write three manifestos – the first of which was an open letter to the Christian Nobility. This letter appealed to the noblemen of Germany to hear his beliefs and try to persuade the people who still followed the “Romanists” (Catholics).
In this manifesto, Luther uses a metaphor of three walls to describe what is seemingly a catch-22 situation. The Pope was all-powerful and was the only one who could translate the Bible. If a person wished to challenge this, they would have to call a council – and the only person who could call council was the Pope! Luther dispels this belief with his teachings.
The role of Luther Luther said that what differentiated him from previous reformers was that they attacked the life, he the doctrine of the church. Whereas they denounced the sins of churchmen, he was disillusioned by the whole scholastic scheme of redemption. The assumption was that man could erase his sins one by one through confession and absolution in the sacrament of penance. Luther discovered that he could not remember or even recognize all of his sins, and the attempt to dispose of them one by one was like trying to cure smallpox by picking off the scabs. Indeed, he believed that the whole man was sick. The church, however, held that the individual was not too sick to make up for bad deeds by some good deeds. God gave to all a measure of grace. If human beings lay hold of it and did the best they could, God would reward them with a further gift of grace with which they could perform deeds of genuine merit, which would give them credit before God. Human beings might even die with more than enough credits for salvation. These extra credits constituted a treasury of the merits of the saints, from which the pope could make transfers to those whose accounts were in arrears. The transfer was called an indulgence and for this, in Luther's day, the grateful recipient made a contribution to the church.
"The continental Reformation- Germany, Switzerland, and France."
Britannica 2001 Standard Edition CD-ROM.
Copyright © 1994-2001 Britannica.com Inc. November 12, 2002.
The text of the "An Open Letter to The Christian Nobility" is a good summary of the main ideas published in Martin Luther's "Ninety-five Theses." However, here are his "Ninety-five Theses" for those of you who would like to read the whole thing.
Please readMencher, Liaisons 125-136 Martin Luther (1483-1546) "An Open Letter to The Christian Nobility" 1520.
A lot of the primary texts concerning the Reformation can be found here.
It seems amazingly relevant!
Had television existed in the 16th century, the daily dose of political attack ads might have shown spots of Martin Luther as saint and the pope as sinner! People who use the phrase "politics as usual" when they are disgusted by the mudslinging and outrageous claims of political commercials probably don't realize just how "usual" that really is. The modern mass media campaign of charge and countercharge originated not in the smoke-filled rooms of political parties but in the Protestant-Roman Catholic struggle of the Reformation.
The printing press was barely 70 year s old when Martin Luther and his supporters turned it into an awesome tool--and weapon--for the spread of the Lutheran understanding of the gospel. They used every trick in today's campaign adviser's book to advance their cause, and their Catholic opponents responded in kind.
A commercial this summer framed an upbeat President Clinton against a bright blue sky, while Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich were shown in black-and-white with frowns on their faces. In similar fashion, 16th century folk were treated to woodcuts of Luther, Bible in hand, surrounded by a halo of sanctity and overshadowed by the hovering dove of the Spirit. His "opponent," the pope, was cast as a servant of the devil, enthroned in hell.
One of the most famous attack ad woodcuts commissioned by Luther pairs the scene of Christ driving the money-changers from the temple with a view of the pope receiving indulgence money. Sound familiar? It's not unlike a recent commercial depicting Clinton wanting more and more tax money, while Dole drives the wicked "taxers and spenders" away. In his contributions to this media melee, Luther didn't hesitate to depict his opponents in the worst possible light or to put a highly favorable "spin" on the efforts and beliefs of his side.
Yet, in even his angriest publications, Luther always offered profound teachings about the gospel. He could never just attack. He had to preach and teach as well.
Would that the modern media campaigns imitate less Luther's trashing of opponents and more his presentation of issues that really matter.
Albrecht DÜRER, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. 1498 Woodcut, 39 x 28 cm
(Revelation 6:1-8:) Conquest, War, Plague and Famine, Death
|Iconography: Stokstad describes the iconography of this image as a "moral lesson on the power of evil" but more than that, Stokstad discusses the use of images of witches in his images as an expression of evil. It is interesting that this is one of the roles that older, perhaps unattractive woman were accused of during the Renaissance and well into the 1800's. In some ways, the depiction of witches in the art of the Renaissance represents the anti-ideal for a woman. In this way, woman are still provided with a role model of what not to become. |
Form and Context:
Woodcut is the technique of printing designs from planks of wood. . . It is one of the oldest methods of making prints from a relief surface, having been used in China to decorate textiles since the 5th century AD. In Europe, printing from wood blocks on textiles was known from the early 14th century, but it had little development until paper began to be manufactured in France and Germany at the end of the 14th century. . . In Bavaria, Austria, and Bohemia, religious images and playing cards were first made from wood blocks in the early 15th century, and the development of printing from movable type led to widespread use of woodcut illustrations in the Netherlands and in Italy. With the 16th century, black-line woodcut reached its greatest perfection with Albrecht Dürer and his followers Lucas Cranach and Hans Holbein. In the Netherlands Lucas van Leyden and in Italy Jacopo de' Barbari and Domenico Campagnola, who were, like Dürer, engravers on copper, also made woodcuts. As wood is a natural material, its structure varies enormously and this exercises a strong influence on the cutting. Wood blocks are cut plankwise. The woods most often used are pear, rose, pine, apple, and beech. The old masters preferred fine-grained hardwoods because they allow finer detail work than softwoods, but modern printmakers value the coarse grain of softwoods and often incorporate it into the design.
The Knight, Death and The Devil
1513-14 Copper engraving, 25 x 19 cm
|Form: In this variation of the theme, the two figures are nude and the total environment is much more worked out. This image indicates a fairly good use of anatomy and perspective and shows more of a development of the mark making discussed in Grien's drawing. The development of the vocabulary of marks would have been important for Grien to be able to make a high quality engraving. |
Context: In the North, places like Germany, France and Holland, the art market was a bit different than in Italy. Although the Reformation did not officially begin until 1518, there were stirrings of it earlier than that.
In Northern towns and cities, there was a different distrubution of wealth and probably a larger upper middle class than in Italy. In addition to these factors, the main patron for the arts was in Italy in the Churches of Rome, Padua and Florence. Since individuals could afford to buy work for smaller prices many artists sought out this different market. The print market allowed artists to sell multiple copies of the same images to a larger number of people and make as much money from it as the sale of one or two paintings.
This also freed some of the artists from the typical more Catholic or overtly religious iconography of much of the art of the South and allowed them to explore other kinds of imagery and subjects.
For more info on printmaking go here;
The Knight, Death and The Devil
1513-14 Copper engraving, 25 x 19 cm
"Though the imagery of his Knight, Death and the Devil is influenced by his travels to Italy, the rich iconography is an element of his Northern upbringing. The knight represents the "good Christian soldier", who is traveling through the "forest of darkness" to arrive at the "kingdom of light". On his way, he encounters Death (the old man with serpents for hair) and the Devil (the single-horned goat), but he does not even give them a moment's glance. He is steadfast in his aim, accompanied by his faithful dog (representing loyalty). There is a small lizard below the hind legs of his horse going the opposite direction. Anything reptilian generally connotes evil in Christian iconography, and also serves to emphasize that his is going the right direction. In the left corner is a skull, symbolic of the fate of all mankind, just above Albrecht Durer's signature, "A.D."
Go here for the melody http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/o/n/onwardcs.htm Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
Brothers lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.
Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
What the saints established that I hold for true.
What the saints believ'd, that I believe too.
Long as earth endureth, men the faith will hold,
Kingdoms, nations, empires, in destruction rolled.
Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.
Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King,
This through countless ages men and angels sing.