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.
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.
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.
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.