The Madonna and Child between Saints Ulrich and Afra with Four Shields

The Madonna and Child between Saints Ulrich and Afra with Four Shields
Unknown (German, Augsburg School), The Madonna and Child between Saints Ulrich and Afra with Four Shields, ca. 1490s, printed ca. 1505-10. Woodcut with hand-coloring, 10 x 6 1/2”. Museum purchase, The Class of 1947 Acquisition Fund, 2012.1

The Madonna and Child between Saints Afra and Ulrich with Four Shields is a striking hand-colored late fifteenth-century/early sixteenth-century German woodcut with a noteworthy combination of religious and civic iconography. The woodcut originates in Augsburg, and although it is unclear who printed this impression, versions were published in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries by Erhard Ratdolt, a popular publisher who worked for the Bishop of Augsburg. The presence of the Madonna and Child with the city’s patron saints and the coats of arms represents the protection of the saints and the Virgin over the Bishop and the townspeople.  There are several compositions from this region with similar iconography spanning the time period of about 1510-1800 and this woodcut is part of a recurring tradition of printmaking in Augsburg.

Saints Ulrich and Afra, the patron saints of Augsburg, are found together in prints until at least 1800.  Saint Ulrich was the Bishop of Augsburg from 923 to 973 and is usually depicted, as here, with his Bishop’s miter, staff, a book, and a fish.  Saint Afra is less well known and may have operated a brothel or worked as a temple prostitute.  She was martyred by the Romans and is usually shown wearing a crown and standing on a fire with her hands clasped around a wooden pole, as in this print.

Already rare, this impression of The Madonna and Child between Saints Afra and Ulrich with Four Shields differs from other known impressions in the manner of its coloring and the coats of arms featured at the bottom of the print. Other known impressions feature a black and white checkered third coat of arms, associated with Friedrich II von Zollern, Bishop of Augsburg from 1468 to 1505, while the red, white, and blue coat of arms in this impression is associated with Heinrich IV von Lichtenau, who held the same office from 1505 to 1517. A thin white line is visible to the left and the right of this coat of arms, revealing that a section was cut out of the original wood block and replaced, and suggesting that this impression may be an unrecorded second state of the print.

Elaine Mehalakes
Kemper Curator of Academic Programs

Emma Wright
2011 Eleanor P. DeLorme Intern

 
 
 
 

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