Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Woodcuts at the Hood

Two pages of woodcuts, showing many figures among a cityscape.Do these two woodcuts constitute the earliest printed image of Jerusalem? Recently acquired by the Hood Museum of Art, the prints are dated to around the 1460s. They are the only known surviving fragments of what was a much larger depiction of the cycle of the Passion, originally composed of twelve sheets measuring about 44 by 44 inches. The images and xylographic inscriptions refer to a number of scenes from the Life of Christ, other saints, and pilgrimage routes. The entire arrangement would have likely served as a visual aid on the walls of a church or convent to guide the viewer on a spiritual journey.

A woodcut showing a walled city.The iconography and identification of specific buildings, as well as the spatial representation of the city, are similar to the images and inscriptions published in the Liber chronicarum, also known as the Nuremberg Chronicle, of 1493—a copy of which can be found in Rauner Library. In each case the Dome of the Rock, the Qubbat as-Sakhrah (completed in 691 C.E.), is inaccurately identified as Solomon’s Temple. The woodcuts can be viewed by students and faculty members at the museum, while the early publication is available in Rauner Library.

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