Early woodcuts usually illustrate religious subjects for the spiritual edification of a mostly illiterate public.
Produced by anonymous craftsmen, these simple, direct images facilitated an intimate dialogue between the individual and the holy figure depicted.
This pietà was probably inspired by sculptures of the subject, common in Germany. Printed on a full
sheet of paper, the image was hand colored with watercolor. Remnants of adhesive on the verso and
holes caused by insects suggest that it was pasted inside the cover of a book, which preserved it. There are only about 20 northern single-image woodcuts extant. Extraordinary in its large size, fresh color, and good state of preservation, this sheet is the only known impression of the image.
Cleveland, Ohio: The Cleveland Museum of Art; August 17-November 9, 2003. "Against the Grain: Woodcuts from the Collection". No exhbition catalogue.
CMA, "Treasures on Paper from the Collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art" (Mar. 9, 2014-Jun. 8, 2014)