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Thursday, 26 January 2017

Andreas Nunzer’s etching“, Jesus Calms the Storm”

Andreas Nunzer (active c.1725–40)
“Jesus Calms the Storm” 1744, illustration for Matthew 8.23-27(NIV):

“23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’
26 He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27 The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’

Etching on fine laid paper, trimmed within the platemark, but outside the image borderline, and lined on a conservator’s support sheet.
Size: (sheet) 17.5 x 9.4 cm; (image borderline) 14.5 x 7.9 cm
Lettered in the plate at the upper right: “P. 46”

Condition: good impression, trimmed with margin outside the image borderline and laid upon a support sheet of washi paper. There is slight darkening to the lower left corner of the margin.

I am selling this small etching full of theatrical drama for a total cost of AU$78 (currently US$58.94/EUR54.85/GBP46.59 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this superb illustration showing Jesus being woken his sleep in a boat full of terrified men with a gale blowing around them, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

One of my interests in looking at prints is seeing how artists approach the task of illustrating complicated stories. Moreover, I’m particularly fascinated by how early artists communicated the essential substance of a story to folk who were unable to read.

In this very small illustration, there are two levels of meanings that Nunzer needed to project to a viewer and I think that he succeeds very well, but let me explain.

The primary meaning to be communicated is that the scene is set with a boat tossed around at sea in a gale. To achieve this goal, Nunzer employs the conventional device of connoting the path of wind by using angelic heads—zephyrs—in the sky blowing downwards. The affect of their actions is shown by the curling wave crests of a sea churning with currents and the very subtle but effective visual device of line flourishes representing the rigging of sails.

The secondary level of meanings that Nunzer needed to show was that Jesus is asleep in this tossed around boat and that his comrades, who are terrified by their potential demise of drowning if the boat were to sink, are trying to wake him.

To satisfy this requirement in the illustration, Nunzer has arranged the boat load of terror so that a left-to-right reading of the image would move over the group of highly agitated men before arriving at Jesus shown asleep on the far right. To ensure that viewers would have no doubt about which of the figures Jesus is, Nunzer has depicted the traditional halo of radiating lines around his head. To show that he is asleep—and this is what could have been tricky to achieve—Nunzer, not surprisingly, portrays Jesus’ eyes as closed with a small dash of a line, but he also arranges the pose so that Jesus’ hand supports his face. The element to this illustration—and I need to stress that this is a TINY illustration—that I really like is the way that Nunzer communicates the action of Jesus being awakened from his sleep. Here Nunzer portrays the figure awakening Jesus with outstretched hands that reach around the halo to tap Jesus on the arm.

Illustrations can easily fail in their mission to communicate complicated narratives in a meaningful way. What makes this particular print so good is that the full story is projected effectively from an image smaller than the palm of one’s hand.

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