Saturday, 8 April 2017

Sebald Beham’s engraving, “Christ as Salvator Mundi”, 1520


Sebald Beham (aka Hans Sebald Beham; Sebald Peham) (1500–50)
“Christ as Salvator Mundi” (aka “Christ the Saviour”; “Christ in Glory”), 1520, from the series of seven plates, “Christ and the Twelve Apostles”

Engraving on very fine laid paper with margins
Size: (sheet) 7.4 x 5.4 cm; (plate) 6.2 x 4.4 cm
Signed with monogram and dated at centre left.

Bartsch (1803) VIII.133.36; TIB (1978) 15 (8) 36 (133); Pauli 1901-11 38; Hollstein 38
The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Christ in glory; whole-length figure in frontal view, holding the orb in his left hand and blessing with his right hand; from a series of seven engravings. 1520 Engraving” (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1514988&partId=1&searchText=beham+christ&page=1)
See also the description of this print at the Rijksmuseum: http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.31069

Condition: superb impression with traces of ink residue above and below the plate mark and with small margins (approx. 5mm with slight variations) in near pristine condition. Very close inspection of the impression reveals tiny flecks of brown (far too small to measure in mms). These are fascinating as they are rust marks from the original iron plate from which this print was pulled.
I am selling this original early engraving by one of the leading members of the 16th century “Kleinmeister” (Little Masters) in Germany for AU$457 (currently US$342.82/EUR323.83/GBP277.08 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this important engraving by one of the major Renaissance printmakers, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold


For those unfamiliar with the iconography underlying “Salvator Mundi” (Latin for “Saviour of the World”) images, Christ is shown with his right hand raised in a blessing gesture while holding a globus cruciger (i.e. a cross-bearing orb symbolising Christ’s dominion over the world) in his other hand. Unlike Beham print, “The Bearing of the Cross”, that I have posted earlier dealing with a specific event in Christ’s passion, this postage-stamp sized image is a step beyond an illustration of earthly events. Instead, it is an image steeped in eschatological concerns (i.e. “a part of theology concerned with the final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity” OED). From my way of looking at it, the print is like an icon helping a troubled soul—or perhaps an untroubled soul—to self-examine bigger spiritual issues than everyday problems and joys. In short, I suspect that the image was not created for a viewer to marvel at the artists’ skill or the beauty of the portrayed subject, but rather to “use” the image as a launching pad to spiritual transcendence.

Of course, the history behind even the most sublime image is often tainted by the less than holy world in which it was created. For example, only five years after this print was executed, Sebald and his brothers were brought before a board of inquiry in Nuremberg and banned from the city for their heretical views (amongst other issues like civil disobedience). They were dubbed with the title of “the three godless painters” and after reading the following extract from the hearing (argued by none less than the great George Penz) I can see that the spirit of sanctity with which this engraving appears to be made may be far from the truth:

“What does he [Sebald Beham] think of Christ?
He thinks nothing of Christ.
Does he believe in the Holy Scripture as the word of God?
He does not believe in Scripture.
What is his opinion of the Sacrament of the Altar?
He has no use for it.”
(Stephen H Goddard, ed. 1988, “The World in Miniature: Engraving by the German Little Masters: 1500–1550”, The Spencer Museum, University of Kansas, p.15) 






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