Social Protest as a Subject of German Woodcuts of the 1520's (“Master of Petrarch”)

Publication type Article
Status Published
EditionVolume 5 Issue 6 (29)
Abstract“Master of Petrarch” is a well-known artist which name is still not discovered. He got this nickname thanks to his main work – huge series of woodcuts illustrating the German edition of the famous treatise “Phisicke against Fortune” by Italian humanist Petrarch (1304—1374). Series were prepared during 1519 (to the first book of the composition) and 1520 (to the second book of the treatise). The author of article finds many important signs of the Reformation era in woodcuts by “Master of Petrarch”. About 100 from 261 woodcuts contain images of weapons including cannons, armed people, and scenes of sieges, military collisions and battles. The author of the article makes several conclusions: the German painter concentrated his main attention on sensitive public issues; if Petrarch's dialogue allowed him to turn on that way, the Master surely used it. Among his characters are armed notable persons, knights, peasants, citizens, governors. He represents sieges, battles, collisions on city streets and near the city gates, killed and wounded people. We can see the fires, destructions, citizens running from war in his pictures. Public temperament of the painter had something common with temperament of the author of the treatise. Nevertheless, life forces Master of Petrarch to speak, to shout about the main thing, subordinating Petrarch’s texts to it, replacing their ethical and world outlook contents with military, political and social themes. The subject of city passes from one woodcut to another. Master of Petrarch feels the biggest sympathy for social unprotected victims of war — old men, children, and women. A Reader meets Master of Petrarch as a humanist artist who supported reformation and had deeply reflected its dramatic situations. He does not distort Petrarch`s plan consciously but as if he would “read” it in a new way in the context of the 1520s years.
KeywordsPetrarch, Petrarch's treatise “Phisicke against Fortune”, Germany, the Reformation, the German humanity, Master of Petrarch, woodcutting, a German city of the XVIth century, a social protest, a subject of war, afflictions of the Reformation era
Publication date10.11.2014
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