previous sub-section
VI— Speculum Woodcuts and Miniatures
next sub-section

Chapter XXIV

a. Cristus pendens in cruce
(Christ hanging on the cross)

Christ on the cross is flanked by the two thieves who are tied to their crosses. In crucifixion scenes by artists north of the Alps, Jesus is shown nailed to his cross as in this woodcut, presumably indicating the cruelty of the Jews.

Matthew XXVII, 35; Mark XV, 25;
Luke XXIII, 33; John XIX, 18

b. Nabugodonosor in sompnio vidit arborem
(Nebuchadnezzar saw a tree in a dream)

Daniel interpreted the dream of Nebuchadnezzar of the great tree whose branches sheltered the birds and shaded the animals until a "holy one" came down from heaven and felled it. The tree represented Nebuchadnezzar's great power which must be humbled in the sight of the Lord. This prefigures the death of Jesus to redeem mankind. Here Nebuchadnezzar sleeps in a bed at the left while a man raises an axe to cut down the tree, with birds in its branches and animals at its foot, prophesying his downfall.

Daniel IV, 7–23


c. Rex codrus dedit seipsum in exicium prosuis
(King Codrus gave himself to his destruction for his people)

Two armored soldiers with shields, one showing a dragon, the other a sun, are killing the king at his own request, for the sake of his people. The story is borrowed from Valerius Maximus. In this scene Codrus wears royal clothes and a crown, but according to the story he had changed his clothing to a servant's attire in order to be killed by the enemies who had declined earlier to kill the king. This prefigures the willing sacrifice of Jesus, who dressed himself in human flesh in order to deliver us from our enemies.

d. Eleazar confodiens elephantem ab ipso oppressus est
(Eleazar stabbing the elephant is crushed by it)

Eleazar is shown beneath an elephant supporting a tower with two armed soldiers, as he runs his sword into its belly. It collapsed and died, crushing Eleazar. The artist obviously had never seen an elephant. The story comes from the Apocrypha, and the event prefigures Christ's sacrifice of his life for others.

I Maccabees VI, 37, 43–46
(I Machabees)


Chapter XXV of the manuscripts is omitted in the blockbooks, and at this point a new artist and/or woodcutter made the blocks. The compositions and the architectural framing, as well as the gestures of the figures, follow those of the first artist, but the form of the trees is rounded and the hatching for shadows is frequently diagonal rather than horizontal. The figures are generally larger in the frame .

previous sub-section
VI— Speculum Woodcuts and Miniatures
next sub-section