Close XYL-11 Christ as Man of Sorrows (‘Image of Pity’)

 [England, c.1490]. Woodcut with Greek and English inscriptions.

 Schr. 866b. Christ as Man of Sorrows, half-length, positioned in front of the cross, with long hair, eyes half open, his head inclined to his right, arms crossed, showing the wounds of his hands and side, flanked by the lance and reed and sponge, and surrounded at the top, left and right by a border, made up originally of either 17 or 18 compartments with instruments of the Passion. The inscription on the tablet over the cross is in Greek and reads ‘ό ΒΑCίVAEΎS: ΗόAό: ζH:’ (a corruption, with incorrect word division, of ό βασιλεύς τής δόζης, ‘the king of glory’; Ps 23,7), as on the icon at S. Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome; see W. Mersmann, Der Schmerzensmann (Düsseldorf, 1952), pp. VI–VII; D. I. Pallas, Die Passion und Bestattung Christi in Byzanz. Der Ritus--das Bild (Munich, 1965), 197ff., 229–30; Bertelli, ‘The Image of Pity in Santa Croce’, passim; H. Belting, Das Bild und sein Publikum im Mittelalter. Form und Funktion früher Bildtafeln der Passion (Berlin, 1981), 66–7, 159–60, 308. A closely related English painted image of the Man of Sorrows, with the same Greek inscription, but without the arms of the Passion and not necessarily copied from the same Byzantine model, is contained in London BL, Add. MS. 37049, fol. 2r (illustrated by Bertelli, pl. 15); the reading τής with τ-ή ligature explains the misreading of τής as Ηό in the woodcuts. The panel beneath the Man of Sorrows contains the English text of an indulgence extending over seven lines and granting a remission of [thirty-]two thousand, seven hundred [and fifty-five years] purgatory for the performance of a devotion before the image: ‘To þem þat before þis yma|ge off pyte. Deuoutly. v. ty|mes say. pr¯ nr¯ & aue. Pite|[ous]ly beholding þies ar[mes of Chris]tes passion. Ar’ | [graunted xxx].ij.M.vij.C. | [& lv. yeres] off pardon.’ All enclosed in a double-lined frame. Unique copy. Whereas Schreiber dates this impression c.1470–80, Hodnett more plausibly prefers a later date ‘c. 1490?’ and localizes it to the north of England. For this variant of the Man of Sorrows, two of them found in printed primers (London: William Caxton, [1490], Hodnett 350; London: Wynkyn de Worde, [1494], Hodnett 390), the rest single-leaf woodcuts, see Bradshaw, ‘Image of Pity’, the text of the indulgence at 89–90, here specifying a Credo as well as the five Paternosters and Aves; Dodgson, English Woodcuts, 7–9 nos 1–10; STC 14077c.6–14a. Bertelli presents further material and plausibly associates the diffusion of the cult of this image with the Carthusian order.

ills. Dodgson, ‘English Devotional Woodcuts’, pl. XXXV (b); Dodgson, English Woodcuts, fig. 3; Illustrated Bartsch (Supplement), 163.866–2; Bodleian Filmstrip Roll 245, no. 5.

refs. Dodgson, Ashmolean, 33–4 (Bodl.19); Dodgson, ‘English Devotional Woodcuts’, 99; Schreiber, Handbuch, VIII 46; Dodgson, English Woodcuts, 7 no. 3; C. Bertelli, ‘The Image of Pity in Santa Croce in Gerusalemme’, in Essays in the History of Art presented to Rudolf Wittkower, ed. D. Fraser and others (London, 1967), 40–55 and plates, at 48–9 with note 59; STC 14077c.7; Hodnett no. 2511; Nicholson no. 73.

copy One eighth of a chancery sheet. 155 × c.107 mm (woodcut 132 × 89 mm). Chain-lines vertical. No watermark. Printed in pale brown ink on one side of the paper by rubbing. Coloured in red, pink, yellow, green, blue, grey, and black, the wounds in Christ’s side and on his hands emphasized in red. Badly torn, so that much of the left-hand edge and the lower left-hand corner are lost. The bottom line of text is partly scored through. Numerous prickings in the outer margins indicate that the leaf was at one time sewn to a backing, probably a page of a manuscript. Pasted onto a paper mount attached to fol. 5r of a nineteenth-century guard-book.

 The woodcut was removed in 1894 from MS. Bodl. 850, where it was pasted to the otherwise completely blank recto of the lower flyleaf (fol. 109r). It was first noticed by E. Gordon Duff in 1886. The manuscript, datable on the basis of its illumination to the third quarter of the fifteenth century, is a Latin book of hours, with a Sarum calendar and an appendix of English and Latin prayers. At the end of the manuscript, on the pages immediately before the leaf to which the woodcut was pasted, there are further additions: an ‘Oratio de sancta Trinitate’, incipit: ‘Domine deus omnipotens pater et filius et spiritus sanctus da michi famulo tuo N victoriam contra omnes inimicos . . .’ (fol. 107v, with an English indulgence); ‘<O> domine ihesu christe fili dei viui qui in cruce suspensus fuisti . . . Libera me domine iotha etha zemachi rozima sicut liberasti tres pueros . . .’ (fols 107v–108r); ‘Cum inter homines veneris Pantassereum in mente hanc oracionem dicendo et omne gaudium tibi agent . . .’ (fol. 108v); ‘Omnipotens sempiterne deus qui infirma mundi elegis vt forcia queque confundis concede propicius mihi . . .’ (fol. 108v); finally the Lord’s prayer in English (fol. 108v, sixteenth-century addition). The host volume has a late sixteenth-century inboard gold-tooled centrepiece binding, probably English. Tawed calf leather over beech boards with an inner bevel. 217 × 157 × 7 mm. The gold tooling is executed with a single fillet, an oval centrepiece, and two small tools. The upper board has two holes and a rust mark at the lower fore-edge indicating a Bodleian Library chain staple, now missing. The spine has the shelfmark annotations: ‘850’ in black paint; ‘Med’ in ink; and ‘svp: art | d: 55’ and ‘arch: | f. 5’, both gold-tooled.

refs. SC 2604; Pächt–Alexander III no. 1087.

Binding: Late nineteenth-century (1894?) blank book, housing two woodcuts, bound as an inboard binding for the Bodleian. Brown cloth over strawboards. 224 × 157 × 7 mm. The spine was originally gold-tooled with the title ‘english woodcut image of pity 15th cent.’ Later erasures of the tooling and then the addition of an ‘s’ changed the tooled title to ‘woodcuts 15th cent.’ These changes were probably carried out when XYL-36 was added to the binding in 1920.

Provenance: Notes in the calendar, with dates, suggest that the host volume may have belonged to the families of Byddey (1512), Gavell (1538), and Sidney (1482–1554). The birth of Sir Philip Sidney in 1554 is recorded on fol. xir. In the Bodleian Library by 1620; see SC I 103.

shelfmark: Arch. G e.35(1).