Bernhard von Breydenbach (d. 1497).
Peregrinatio in terram sanctam.
Mainz: Erhard Reuwich, 11 Feb. 1486.
This account of a pilgrimage to Venice and the Holy Land by a group of German nobles established an ambitious standard for German book illustration. Accompanying the pilgrims was Erhard Reuwich, a Dutch artist who provided highly descriptive woodcuts of the urban topography, sacred monuments, local inhabitants, and exotic fauna of Jerusalem. The allegorical frontispiece, exhibited here, introduced lifelike shading that was unprecedented in the art of the woodcut.
Reuwich’s frontispiece features a woman whose extravagant Venetian attire was of a kind that the German pilgrims had denounced as shameful. As one of the texts in the Peregrinatio is a “Lamentation on the deplorable state of the Holy Land,” this woman likely was intended as a personification of the “fallen” city of Jerusalem, which the prophet Ezekiel compared to a bejeweled prostitute. Similarly, Isaiah called Jerusalem “the captive daughter of Zion,” and Jeremiah likened the city to a sinful queen who is despised as a slave. In his 1498 Apocalypse, Dürer depicted a similar “fallen woman” in Venetian dress as the Whore of Babylon.