Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hans Baldung

Freiburg has a good collection of woodcuttings by Hans Baldung Grien. They were on exhibition from September 17, 2016, to January 15, 2017, following a partial opening of the second construction phase of the city's Augustinermuseum. So Red Baron hurried up not to miss the exhibition.

Before showing you some woodcuttings Grien's masterpiece in Freiburg's Münster church must not be forgotten. The altarpiece shows Christ in a somewhat leisurely posture, holding the world in one hand and with the other clumsily helping his father coronating his mother as celestial queen. Still today some pious viewers are shocked.

They nicknamed him Grien (the Green) when he was working in Albrecht Dürer's workshop although Hans was no greenhorn. Born in 1484 he had started learning woodcutting and engraving at Strasbourg in 1500 before he moved to Nuremberg in 1503 to work with the uncontested master of his time Dürer.

As Der Spiegel illustrated the other day: contrary to today even at the end of the 19th century the number of possible "Christian" names was limited to those taken from the Bible.  At the outgoing Middle Ages Hans or the longer form Johannes (John) was quite common. By the way, Red Baron's given second name is Hans. Since I like Johannes better I tried to change but the authorities detected my unofficial act and whistled me back.

In 1894 63% of the girls and 70% of the boys had five names taken from the Bible (except for Nikolaus).
In 2015 the five most frequent names were only shared by 11 resp. 7% of the babies (©Der Spiegel)

Coming back to Dürer's workshop. Albrecht had three men with the name of Hans working for him so the one Hans mostly clad in green cloths was soon called the Grien. He liked his nickname so much that he signed most of his engravings and paintings with his three initials HBG.

Hans and Albrecht became good friends so Grien managed Dürer's workshop in his master's absence. In particular when Albrecht was in the Netherlands where he learned in 1521 that Luther had suddenly disappeared on his way back from the imperial diet at Worms to Wittenberg. Dürer who had intended to etch the Luther portrait zu einer langen gedechtnus des kristlichen Mannes (for a long commemoration of this Christian man) lamented in a letter: Oh Gott ist Luther tot, wer wird uns hinfürt das heilig Evangelium so klar fürtragen! Ach Gott, was hätt er uns noch in 10 oder 20 jahrn schreiben mögen! O ihr alle frommen Christenmenschen, helft mir fleißig beweinen diesen gottgeistigen Menschen und ihn bitten, daß er uns ein andern erleuchten Mann send (O God, if Luther is dead who in the future will present the Holy Scripture in such clarity! Good God, what he could have written in the next 10 or 20 years! O you pious Christians help me weeping over this God-spirited person and asking God to send us another enlightened man).

Hans Baldung, however, depicted Luther in 1521 as A servant of Jesus Christ and a capsize recoverer of Christian teaching:

Martin Luther with nimbus and Holy Spirit (1521)

Adam is holding a small apple in his hand
 to offer it to Eve. She, however, reaches
 for the bigger, forbidden one (1514).
Five years later: Eve now holding
two apples is no longer resisting
Adam's propositions (1519).
The seven deadly sins (1511)

Drunken Bacchus with playing and peeing cherubs (1520)

Front page of Huldrichus Zasius's Nüwe Stattrechte und Statuten der loblichen Stadt Fryburg im Pryszgow gelegen (New municipal law and bylaws of the praiseworthy City of Freiburg situated in the Breigau) showing Freiburg's three patron saints. In the middle St. Mary with the child, on the left St. Alexander of Rome, and on the right St. Lambert of Maastricht.

Around 1520

St. Philippus from Baldung's apostel series (around 1519).
The guy looks like the old Goethe to me.

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