Syllabus [EuroHist-HHS123-F09]

For 11/23

Assignment 12

Education etc.


::::AV:Fine arts:Holbein:DerRitter.jpg

Holbein's "The Knight" [From his Dance of Death series from 1538]

Live by the sword...etc.


Monday: (remember there is no Wednesday class.)

Read Davies: pp. 417-435

Read: pp. 33-49 in this: Grant_FoundationsMedievalUniversity-2.8MB.pdf


Essay: Feel free to look more closely at some of the graphic things below and follow your nose through that material.  You could also compare the Stevens education with that of the Medieval university from the Grant reading.  Remember, you need to have 5 essays and the bigger one done soon.


Graphic Arts: Printing


Woodcut: a form of relief printing, meaning that you carve away what you don't want to be inked.  The ink is rolled, or daubed onto the block and pressed onto paper.  Pretty straight forward technique.  Woodcut prints were prevalent in the Middle Ages and were used as illustrations in early printed books.  Woodcut blocks could be set in right with the type allowing for text and image on the same page.  Holbein and Dčrer were a couple of the best in this medium [see below], however there are many, many excellent examples.


Engraving is a form of intaglio printmaking.  Intaglio means carving in Italian.  In this technique marks are carved into a metal plate usually using burins, which are sort of like tiny chisels.  The plate is then rubbed down with ink and then the ink is wiped off the surface, leaving ink in the carved marks. This is then pressed onto paper that has usually been dampened a bit to soften it up so that it will press up into the engraved marks filled with ink.  Prints made by process of engraving started to become prevalent in Europe in the 15th c.  It grew out of the craft of engraving gold and silver and armor decoration.  Albrecht Dčrer [see below] and Martin Schongauer [example of Schongauer] [late 15th and early 16th centuries] are considered the masters of this technique.  If you want to see what a real engraving looks like for real, look at the money in your pocket.    


Etching is also intaglio, but instead of carving marks onto a metal plate, the marks are acid-etched into the plate.  A wax resist is applied to a metal plate and the wax film is scratched off to reveal the metal, which is then put in acid and the revealed parts are eaten away leaving etched channels in the plate.  Wipe on and off the ink, leaving ink in the channels, then print. Daniel Hopfer [example of Hopfer], trained as an decorative etcher of armor is generally credited with being the first to use this technique for printmaking.  Both he and Dčrer were making etched prints in the early 1500s.  Rembrandt (17th c.) was a master etcher and mixed several of these techniques together. [See below.]


I've put us some examples of each technique below.  Knock yourselves out.

The following woodcuts are from Holbein's series "The Dance of Death," ca. 1538.  The genre of a dance with death occurs in poetry, drama, song, and as you see here, graphic art.  Although it doesn't explicitly refer to the plagues that had repeatedly ravaged Europe starting in the 14th century, cutting down roughly 50% of the population*, it seems reasonable to suggest that the preponderance of this motif was in large part inspired by the seemingly random nature of Death's victims, although morality appears to be integrated into the modes of death.  I selected only a few of the 49 that are printed in the edition put up online by Project Gutenberg.  [Link to the online edition.]

*Estimates range from 30% to 60%.  Records of specific towns show as much as 70%, while others were barely touched.



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Above images: Left to right from the top: The Bishop, The Abbot, The Astrologer,

The Ploughman (notice his heavy plow), The Drunkard, The Preacher, and The Last Judgment (notice the cosmos with the earth in the center, which is also seen in the astrologers study).


Except for the last one, which is not really a dance with Death, notice how Death operates in each situation. 

It is interesting to note how much these dances focus on scenes of a religious official being led off to die.  Such officials were often seen as corrupt or impotent.  The prevalent belief, that the plague was divine retrubution for sinful lives, doesn't look good for the church, which should have done a better job at guiding the people and themselves to a less sinful life. 

Albrecht Dčrer



In my opinion the best woodcuts ever made were by Dčrer.

[I should note that Dčrer had professional craftsmen do the carving.]

Here is an example of both the print and the block it was printed from:






Here is a self portrait (painting) he did: Durer-1526-auto.jpg.


Here is one of the best resolution images of a Durer woodcut that I could locate.  These prints are really amazing things to see in person.  There is something about the line and the contrast and the scale that are mesmerizing.  I suggest downloading this and looking at it close up. 

Durer-Flight_into_Egypt.jpg  [11.75" x 8.25"]


Here is a nice collection of reasonably high resolution images of his series of woodcuts illustrating the Apocalypse from Connecticut College's collection: "Apocalypse Now".  This site also has links to some excellent Rembrandt etchings, which are (in my opinion) the finest etchings ever made.  The images on this site don't even come close to what they really look like, but they give you a vague idea.


Finally, here is Dčrer's most famous and enigmatic engraving, "Melancolia I" (1514).  This is a relatively high resolution image and almost gives you a sense of its presence.  Feel free to explore this image, and look for some material about this print on the internet.  It has been written about extensively.  Notice all the tools, the magic square, the sky... etc.  The whole thing is fascinating. 

Melancholia_I  [2.5MB]  [12" x 10"]

I mentioned this in class a couple of weeks ago when discussing witches.  I thought you might like to see it.

Parmigianino -ca.1530.jpg 

[Looks to me like an etching.]

Here are some links to other sites with Holbein images and links to other Dances with Death:


Presentation Resources- Presentation will be given on Monday since there is no Wednesday class.


Bibliograph-Torture-Crime-Punishment.htm- for Virgil


Bibliography-Beverages_in_History.htm- for Evan


Renaissance_Economics - for Eric

– Usury, Capitalism, Banks, and Insurance.  Money breeding money.  Good or Bad?

Look at the file called "Renaissance-Economics-Bibliography.htm" first.


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Optional: Interesting article from NYT 10/24/09

Glanz-Henry V's Greatest Victory is Besieged by Academia-Agincourt-1415