The Madonna on a Crescent Moon in a Rosary – Die Madonna auf der Mondsichel von fünf Engeln umgeben und von den Ständen der Christenheit verehrt (Rosenkranzbild) after 1478
engraving; 269 x 188 mm (10 5/8 x 7 3/8 inches)
Bartsch, vol. 6, p. 221, no. 48; Geisberg 182 second state (of five); Lehrs 199 second state (of five); Hollstein 199 second state (of seven)
dog with flower (cf. Piccard 1464: Cologne and Siegen, 1485)
King Friedrich August II of Saxony, Dresden (Lugt 971); his sale, C.G. Boerner, Leipzig, sale 158, November 15–16, 1928, lot 642 (ill. plate 15), described as: “Von den wenigen von Geisberg genannten Abdrucken dieses Blattes befindet sich nur noch ein anderer in Privatbesitz [this refers to the Rothschild impression, now part of the Musée du Louvre], so daß es wenig wahrscheinlich ist, daß es bald wieder in den Handel kommt.” bought by Gilhofer & Ranschburg, Lucerne, for private collection;
thence by descent
Indulgences that granted relief from purgatory in exchange for devotional exercises or good works—not least donations to the Church—were common during the late Middle Ages. After the advent of printmaking, woodcuts were soon used to widely disseminate this tempting opportunity for the devout but not entirely sinless Christian believer. Israhel van Meckenem was most likely the first artist to create engraved images that promised to postpone any punishment in hell for as many as 20,000 years—extended to 45,000 years in a later state of his Mass of St. Gregory print (Lehrs 353). "These were not authorized indulgences issued under the aegis of the Church, but rather a bootlegged version with an inflated reprieve that was never subject to papal review" (Landau/ Parshall, p. 58)—a minor detail that clearly had little impact on the prolific engraver’s business enterprise.
With regard to style and date, Max Geisberg groups this print with Van Meckenem’s large Passion cycle (Lehrs 142–153). He further points out that the text below refers to an indulgence granted by Pope Sixtus IV to the Rosenkranzbruderschaft on June 29, 1478, and that the print can therefore not have been executed before June 1478 (Geisberg, p. 122).
Lehrs lists no more than twelve known impressions of this print, this one included: I (3), II (2), III (5), IV (2). There is only one impression in an American collection: the Art Institute of Chicago holds a first state.
This fine, early impression is printed with considerable plate tone. It is an extremely early and thus most unusual example of selective wiping in an intaglio print of the fifteenth century.