This work has been sold.
Biblia pauperum ( or Pauper’s Bible) was a popular iconographic and textual tradition, which paired scenes from the life of Christ with scenes and events from the Old Testament. Growing from the manuscript tradition of the Bible moralisée, the Biblia pauperum was immensely popular in printed form. Despite the name, it was highly unlikely that it was used to teach the poor and uneducated the story of the Bible. On the contrary, these picture-text pages with their complex presentation of biblical material were aimed at the literate and devout, who knew their Scripture well enough to follow the narrative content. Although images dominate the page, the complex messages are primarily communicated by the texts. Without their scrolls the prophets cannot be identified, equally some scenes of the Old Testament are difficult to recognize because they were relatively unknown or lack distinctive visual elements.
Although drawing on manuscript sources, an exact model for the Netherlandish block book tradition has not been identified. In the forty-leaf Biblia pauperum, as here, the leaves are arranged into compartments with an architectural framework. The centre depicts a scene from the life of Christ and is flanked by two prefigurations from the Old Testament, above and below these panels are figures of prophets and saints. Accompanying texts explain the relationship between the Old and New Testament subjects, and banderols contain brief quotations from each prophet. Both the text and images were cut and printed from the same wooden block.
The scenes of the present leaves are:
f. 15/p: Christ drives the money lenders out of the Temple
(Left) Building the Temple (Esra 6:14)
(Right) Purification of the Temple (2 Machabees 10:3) f. 16/q Treason of Judas
(Left) Jacob receives Joseph’s coat (Gen 37:32)
(Right) Absalom makes himself judge over the land (2 Sam 15:4)
While the woodblocks were certainly cut and probably printed in the Netherlands, the striking colouring in the present fragment points to Germany, especially to Ulm, where single-sheet woodcuts were painted in similar red, yellow, and bright green colours. The block book was probably coloured after it reached the monastery of Wiblingen, just outside of Ulm.