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Sunday 22 April 2018

Augustin Hirschvogel’s etching, “The Rival Sacrifices of Elijah and the Priests of Baal”, 1548

Augustin Hirschvogel (1503–1553)

“The Rival Sacrifices of Elijah and the Priests of Baal”, 1548 (inscribed on plate), from the series of 104 illustrations published by Aegidius Adler (fl.mid-1500s) in 1550, Vienna, in “Vorredt und eingang der Concordantzen alt und news Testaments."

The Curator of the British Museum advises that Adler’s publication features “[t]wo etchings to a page with German letterpress above and below with relevant biblical passages” (see BM no. 1926,0617.13.86). TIB notes that this print is paired with the etching “The Agony in the Garden” (see TIB 18 [9].1.45 [171]).

Etching on fine laid paper trimmed to the plate mark with thread margins and re-margined with a support sheet.
Size: (support sheet) 23 x 17.3 cm; (sheet) 11.5 x 14.7 cm
Inscribed with the date on plate at lower right corner: “1548”

TIB 18 (9).1.44 (171) (Jane S Peters [ed.] 1982, “The Illustrated Bartsch: German Masters of the Sixteenth Century”, vol. 18, Abaris Books, New York, p. 138); Schwarz 1971, no. 41 (K Schwarz 1971, 'Augustin Hirschvogel: Ein deutscher Meister der Renaissance', facsimile edition of the 1917 edition with plates, New York); Hollstein 134 (F W H Hollstein 1954, “German engravings, etchings and woodcuts c.1400-1700”, Amsterdam).
See also the brief description of this print at The National Gallery of Art:

Condition: marvellously crisp impression (undoubtedly a lifetime impression based on the line quality with no sign of wear to the plate), trimmed close to the plate mark. There are a few minor marks, otherwise the sheet is in excellent condition for its considerable age and has been re-margined with a support sheet of archival (millennium quality) washi paper so that both sides of the sheet can be examined without damaging the delicate paper. The verso has ink stamps from previous collectors and pencil notations.

I am selling this very early and extremely rare etching for AU$310 in total (currently US$237.80/EUR193.52/GBP169.83 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested in acquiring this Renaissance period print executed in Michelangelo’s lifetime and by the artist who arguably popularised the great Albrecht Altdorfer’s approach to landscape, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

For those who may be unfamiliar with the biblical story behind this scene, the portrayed event is a competition between the sacrifice of a bull made by Elijah and the same sacrifice made by the priests of Baal (see the “First Book of Kings”, chapter 18, versus 23 to 40 []). The moment represented is when Elijah is seen to be the “winner” as his sacrifice is shown to be catching fire, whereas the one prepared by the priests of Baal in the background fails to ignite. Like many such stories, the outcome of this competition is gory, as the priests of Baal are herded together after failing to attract their god’s attention and (to quote from verse 40) “…Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.”

Although this etching focuses on the competition and Elijah’s success, the landscape background—somewhat sparse as it is—is an important feature in terms of the history of portraying landscape. The reason for its importance is that Hirschvogel—along with Hanns Lautensack—is famous for his panoramic representation of landscape in the sense that he popularised the landscape tradition set by Albrecht Altdorfer and Wolf Huber. 

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