Matthias Gerung ant the Antichrist

Matthias Gerung (1500-1570) was one of Hans Schäufelein´s pupils in Nördlingen. He lived in Lauingen since 1525, where he worked under the Count Ottheinrich, and also he was employed as local inspector from 1531 to 1567. He illuminated a New Testament and Apocalyse that came from a 15th Century Bible for the Count, between 1530 and 1531; he also produced a cycle of paintings about the destruction of Troy and the History of Paris for the Count’s castle room in Neuburg (1540) and also designed a series of tapestry devoted to the Count’s life from 1533 till 1543. So, the Count became Protestant in 1541, and, because of that, Gerung was employed to illustrate the rules of the new Church, and to design etchings to attack the Pope and the abuses of the Roman Church. These works compose the main Gerung’s artistic work. There is a contradiction, Gerung kept on working on these etchings while he apparently supported the Catholic Emperor Carlos I in 1546. We can see this support in the painting for the city council in 1551 about Carlos I and his army receiving homage from the people of Lauingen, in which Gerung represented himself as one of the characters. Just because this changed, Gerung was called by the Prince Archbishop of Ausburg to design five etchings to the Secundum ritum Augustensis ecclesie (1555). In his late work we must emphasize the painting Melancholie (1558) inspired by tha famous Durer’s print.

I want to focus this post in the times he designed prints for the Reformation, and I show some of those that citicised the Pope and talk about the Antichrist.

Matthias Gerung. “Catholic clergy in the cauldron”. (1546). Etching. All rights reserved.

This print represents the destruction of the Antichrist who is identified to the Pope. The Pope and the clergy are boling in a big cauldron over a fire poked by two devils and a man with a tiara around his neck, who is being watched by a bishop and some cardinals: it´s an ironic satyr in which the Roman Church is destined to be destroyed by itself. This is a part of the Protestant interpretation of the Apocalypse: the Roman Church as heretic itself.

These two images belong to an unknown series of pamphlets about the popular tale of the Antichrist (we must mention that 1500 was a supposed date to the end of the World), the false Messiah, whose activities were linked with the Pope and his followers by the Protestant propaganda.

Matthias Gerung. “The born of the Antichrist”. Etching. All rights reserved.

The first etching represents the born of the Antichrist, with Latin and German inscriptions in the ornamental frame. These texts explain that the born was very slow and painful, while the Devil took a bath in Acheronte, the river of the Hell regions.

Matthias Gerung. “The Baptism of the Antichrist”. Etching. All rights reserved.

About the second etching, we have a more edifying inscription, it says that the true baptism will free the mankind from the menace of the Final Judgement, and also that the sign of the cross is false.

From a stylistic way, we must connect this etchings with other apocalyptic and satyric prints from Matthias Gerung.

The treasures of Satan

Jean Delville. "The treasures of Satan". (1895). All rights reseved.

Jean Delville (Lovaina,1867 – Forest, 1953) is one of intriguish painters of fin de siécle. He never wanted to talk about his paintings and also critics didn´t talk about them too. So, there is a place to speculate about their meaning. Delville is considered one of the Belgian Symbolists. If you have visited previously my blog you know they are my favourites…

Delville trained in the Beaux Arts Academy in Brussels and moved later to Glasgow, so I´m sure he was seduced by these two magical places. He belonged to occultist circles, concretely Sâr Peladan’s Rose Croix, in which Art exhibitions Jean participated. This sympathy for the occult as Teosophy influenced directly in his paintings: a lot of criptic symbols appear in them.

Today I want to talk about The treasures of Satan (1895), a theme which I like so much. The representation of the Devil in 19th century suffered a transformation in comparison with traditional ways. The being with horns and tail, looking like a reptile, a monster starts to change its aspect to a more humanized shape. One of the clues of this change was the recovering of Milton’s Paradise Lost in 19th century. There Satan is the rebel angel, as beautiful as God, at the same level and he´s condemned for his rebellion. One of the most intriguing devils of the end of the 19th century could be Rodin’s Thinker (this is my interpretation, because he belonged originally to the composition The gates of Hell) and Von Stuck’s Lucifer, which is very close to it (the same position and attitude and human shape).

Now it´s time to talk about Delville conception of Satan and his followers. This painting is unique: in iconography, in composition and in colors. There is no other Devil like Delville’s one.

In iconography, Satan has human shape, but surrounding him there are a kind of reptile tails or arms, he is a foreshortened figure, it seems he is fighting or dragging with the people condemned in Hell. All those people are lied down, nude and in positions that suggest a sexual attitude. It´s like an orgy. The composition suggest a kind of river of bodies that comes from the impulse of Satan, the bodies current flows over a strange landscape, the landscape of Hell. And just the colors are golden and orange, suggesting the fire.

This painting, perhaps, is not pretty but outrageous and surely was not indifferent to Delville’s contemporary observers. It´s 2010 and I keep on being intrigued by it… Take a look and think about what Delville thought about Hell and his Master Satan.

Walpurgis Night

Luis Ricardo Falero. "Vision of Faust". (1878). All rights reserved.

Today post is dedicated to a masterpiece of the Spanish 19th century painter: Luis Ricardo Falero. Falero was born in Granada in 1851 and died in London in 1896. His family could send him to study in UK in Richmond University when he was nine: a prodigy boy. Later he travelled to Paris, so his formation was multilingual and cosmopolitan. No doubt, he learnt from Victorians and Academicists to form his personal style. Surely, he was close to occultists and theosophs, and because of it he preferred magic and orientalist motives for his paintings. But the main object of his painting was always the woman. Nude women are present all over his art, as we can see in this masterpiece: Vision of Faust.

Vision of Faust (1878) is inspired in the first part of Goethe’s Faust, the passage where Mephisto shows the Walpurgis Night to Faust in Blocksberg, a peak of Harz mountains in Germany. Walpurgis Night is a traditional holiday for Nordic and Celtic people that celebrates the Spring Equinox, but later was diminished and the people considered this day as a meeting of witches with Satan. This is just the way in which Mephisto shows to Faust this celebration.

Other artists from 19th century who represented Walpurgis Night or meetings between witches were sordid and dark such as Aquelarre (1819-1823) by Goya or Walpurgis Nacht (1829) by Johann Heinrich Ramberg. However Falero’s Vision of Faust is quite sexual and orgiastic, there are devils and bats, but beautiful nude witches dominate the whole painting, doing pink the main colour of the canvas.

The Falero’s witches are disposed in several positions, are foreshortened figures, floating in the air. They are nude and their bodies are voluptuous, it´s an orgy, a painting completely indecorous to be approved by the Academy.

Apart from the witches, there are devil criatures: a bat, a reptile, an old woman, a skeleton, and most of all the incarnation of Satan in a billy-goat. There is also a nude man in the right side that could be Faust involved in the orgy, though it´s only a suggestion.

To watch this painting is just to be a voyeur, Falero wants to show us how a Sabbath should be: no terrible but extremely lascivious. Watching this paint is to be invited to contemplate a satanic bacchanal.

Image wars in the age of Reformation

When you see the Lutheran Reformation, one interesting fact is the apocalytic climate that felt the people at that age, near the year 1500. In this date, even more than first millenium, the people feared the end of the times, thought that the Apocalypse just come. We realise this fact because of the numerous illustrated Apocalypses at that time: the one of Albrecht Dürer (he illustrated it by his own wish) and the other one of Lucas Cranach. Just the people really thought that in 1500 went to happen the prophecy of Saint John.

Close to this idea, it was the coming of Antichrist, Fact that brought the mankind to the end of the times. Then, the legend of the Book of Daniel about the coming of the Antichrist was very widespread.

So, quickly the people started to identified the Antichrist with several people: the Turk, the anabaptist Thomas Müntzer, Martin Luther and even the Pope of the Roman Church, who was the target of the reformators. Maybe this climate of premonition of the end of the World favors the intense and virulent attack of Lutero to the Roman Church.

To identify the Pope with the Antichrist was the main theme of Reformation propaganda. This happens in books as “The Mirror of Christianity” where appears the opulent Roman Church, identifying the Pope with the Antichrist, or Melanchton’s “Pasional Christi und Antichristi”, illustrated by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Apart from these books, there were many engraved panphlets spread as a Reformation weapon of propaganda.

The Roman Church did the same, today survives some prints, but there were less intensity in the images propaganda in the Roman Church than in the side of Reformation.

An example of print attacks inbetween Roman Church and Lutherans are the two engravings I show below.

Hans Brosamer, Seven-headed Martin Luther - 1529 Engraving. Book cover of Johannes Cochelu’s "Sieben köpfe Martini Luthers" Leipzig. All rights reserved

In a few years, Catholics consolidated their critics against Reformation through the print image. “Martin Luther as Seven-headed Beast” happened at the same time that Johannes Cochlaeus was expeled from the Protestant Sacramental Altar.

Probably designed by Hans Brosamer, this engraving shows Luther as the Dragon of Apocalypse or the Antichrist described in Johannes text. The seven heads are: a doctor, a saint, an unfaithful, a priest, a fanatic, a Church supervisor and Barrabás. In it, we can see Luther reading a book, whose opinions would ve as diverse as his seven heads.

Anonymous, The seven-headed papal beast, 1530, coloured woodcut. All rights reserved.

The year after the release of “Seven-headed Martin Luther”, the Reformators stroke back with this woodcut. This image is focused to diverse Catholic Church members. The Antichist has the heads of the Pope and his lieutenants, and makes fun of the mock about the Luther satiric portraits. The Beast is sat in an Mammon altar. The text close to the image explains that the Pope’s court has impersonated the God’s altar and declares itself God. It´s identified as an idol, demanding monetary tributes as Indulgences. So, the Roman Church is condemned by its proper representations. The altar is located over a chest plenty of money with the Devil: it´s the Reign of Satan. The intention of this print is to mock about an instrument of catholic piety: devotional prints.

This is one of the first, and interesting, propaganda war.