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The New Lady Chapel at Einsiedeln

  • Object:

    Print

  • Place of origin:

    Einsiedeln (Probably, Printed and published)

  • Date:

    1816 (Printed and published)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Einsiedeln Abbey (Printed and published)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Woodcut, decorated with coloured paper, metal foil and hand-colouring

  • Museum number:

    E.381-2017

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case MB3H, shelf DR12

Einsiedeln Abbey is a Benedictine monastery dedicated to Our Lady of the Hermits and located in the village of Einsiedeln, twenty miles southeast of Zurich. According to 9th and 14th-century sources, the hermit St Meinrad (d.861) was especially devoted to the Virgin Mary and was given a miracle-working statue of the Virgin and Child by Abbess Hildegard of Zurich around which he built a chapel. Following his murder by two robbers in pursuit of the ‘great treasure’ he was said to guard, a church was built over this chapel. The new church was dedicated but not the chapel. In 948 Conrad of Constance was praying in the chapel when he witnessed Christ and the angels performing the dedication rites. A papal bull of 966 allowed the celebration of the anniversary of this miracle and granted indulgences for pilgrimage to the shrine. Meinrad’s chapel was destroyed by revolutionary French troops in 1798 and the monastery supressed. The monks fled with their treasured Madonna. They were able to return in 1801/2 and the community’s security was assured by the new constitution granted to Switzerland by Napoleon in 1803. The shrine was rebuilt in 1816, an event commemorated in this print which may have been published to raise funds for the rebuilding.

The new shrine, which still serves as the Abbey’s Lady Chapel housing the statue, is depicted standing on the chequered pavement of the Abbey, framed within an elaborate cartouche of rococo ornament. A nimbus of rays surrounds the building, echoing the rays and lightning bolts issuing from the figure of the Virgin in glory above. The chapel building is presented as symbolically corresponding to the figure of the Virgin, which itself symbolises both the monastic community and the wider Church. In small vignettes, two pilgrims can be seen approaching from the left and the two robbers from the legend fleeing to the right, pursued by Meinrad’s two pet crows whose loud denunciations led to the murderers’ apprehension. In the foreground, the body of the saint lies as it was discovered, with lighted candles placed by angels at his head and feet. The saint’s martyrdom by the robbers is polemically correlated with the shrine’s desecration by the revolutionaries.

The coloured papers and metal foils adorning the figure of the Virgin and the façade of the chapel imitate the richly embroidered and bejewelled costumes in which the real statue, a black Madonna, is vested and the relief panels set into the black marble façade of the real chapel. This was also a way of adding colour to an image before the widespread availability of colour printing. The reflective metal foils suggest that the print was designed to be seen by the light of votive candles, treated as a domestic cult image in its own right as well as a souvenir of the pilgrimage.

Physical description

Rectangular image (portrait format) printed in black on cream paper with coloured additions by hand. The new Lady Chapel, housing the statue of the Virgin stands on the chequered pavement of the Abbey, framed within an elaborate cartouche of rococo ornament. A nimbus of rays surrounds the building, echoing the rays and lightning bolts issuing from the figure of the Virgin in glory above. In small vignettes, two pilgrims can be seen approaching from the left and the two robbers from the legend fleeing to the right, pursued by Saint Meinrad’s two pet crows. In the foreground, the body of the saint lies with lighted candles placed at his head and feet. Below the body is a scoll lettered in Latin S. MEINRADUS M. (St. Meinrad Martyr) and below that a cartouche contains the title lettered in German and French. The figure of the Virgin and the façade of the chapel are decorated with coloured paper and foils. The composition is contained within a rectangular outine which in turn is surrounded by an ornamental 'scalloped' frame, also decorated with coloured paper.

Place of Origin

Einsiedeln (Probably, Printed and published)

Date

1816 (Printed and published)

Artist/maker

Einsiedeln Abbey (Printed and published)

Materials and Techniques

Woodcut, decorated with coloured paper, metal foil and hand-colouring

Marks and inscriptions

S.MEINRADUS M.
Abbild. Der neüen bauten H. Ka-
pelle der Eisiedl. Gnadden Mutter.
Dessem de la Ste Chapelle de
N.D. des Herm. Rebat l'an 1816
Lettered within the design

Dimensions

Height: 40.3 cm, Width: 32 cm

Descriptive line

The New Lady Chapel at Einsiedeln, probably published by Einsiedeln Abbey, Switzerland, about 1816.

Materials

Paper; Foil; Ink

Techniques

Woodcut; Collage; Hand-colouring

Subjects depicted

Nimbus; Figures; Lightning; Crows; Statues; Ornament; Chapels; Picture frames; Candles; Scrolls; Facades; Pavements; Shrines

Categories

Prints

Production Type

Mass produced

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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