Commentary on the Woodcuts for Book 4


Henricus the Emperour with his wife, and chyld, barefoote and barelegd, waiting on Pope Hildebrand, three dayes, and three nightes, at the gates of Canusuam, before he could be suffred to come in.
woodcut [View a larger version]
This large woodcut depicts the humiliation of the Emperor Henry IV at Canossa and appears twice from 1570 onwards (since it also forms part of the Primacy of Popes series). The woodcut expresses the wintry scene and the emperor's barefoot pain in the 'sharp winter, and all frozen with cold', as well as taking the opportunity to cast aspersions on Pope Gregory, sporting his tiara as he toys with his mistress in his apartment, while mitred bishops and fat tonsured monks stare down from the walls. The compositor left a space at the bottom of the second column of text for this woodcut to be inserted but the space was too small; it had to be pasted in on one side and then folded in half. This made the illustration liable to damage. Pasting it in made it much more possible for it to be detached from the text and lost. CUL copy: ground and foliage coloured in two shades of green and yellow also. Similar, but not identical, shades are in the WREN copy also. Note the somewhat garish use of colour in these coloured copies. In this cut, in the CUL copy, the Emperor is dressed in a pinkish-purple outfit with blue lining, which has orange-yellow undergarments. His wife is in purple and the same orange-yellow colours for her overskirts. The child is in a vivid orange, with blue underclothes. Note that the monk in the window is flushed (freehand detail), as are the canoodling Pope and woman. Also there is an additional freehand detail of the reflection of the clouds in the glass of the window. The bishops' mitres are in purple with yellow crosses. Also to be noted is the visual emphasis placed on the flames in the fireplace behind te pope (yellow, tapering into orange and then red). No doubt this is to emphasise their comfortable surroundings, while the emperor and his family suffer in the cold, but nonetheless the emphasis on the heat of the flames is also a portent of images soon to come.
1563 Edition, page 41 | 1570 Edition, page 247 | 1576 Edition, page 205 | 1583 Edition, page 202[Back to Top]

Pope Alexander treading on the necke of Fredericke the Emperour.
woodcut [View a larger version]
This significant moment of papal humiliation, already valued as a precedent in the time of Henry VIII, featured in a woodcut in Robert Barnes, Bapsttrew Hadriani iiii und Alexanders iii gegen keyser Friderischen Barbarossa geübt, which Foxe's illustrator clearly borrowed from. This is among the images in the Acts and Monuments that show borrowings from German sources. As with the Canossa illustration, this image had to be pasted in and folded into the 1563 edition, since there was not enough room on the page to include a woodcut of this size. This illustration appears to have wielded some considerable influence, well into the seventeenth century, inspiring further visual representations of anti-papal sentiment. In the Pope-Burning procession in London in 1680, for example, one float carried figures depicting a seated pope holding the papal keys in one hand, with his foot on the neck of a monarch lying prostrate at his feet. This is unmistakably a conflation of two woodcut pictures from the Acts and Monuments: this,of Pope Alexander III treading on the neck of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and that depicting the Pope seated on the papal throne holding the keys aloft while the monarch humbly kisses his foot. (See below 'Proud primacy of popes', no. 4 (B), p. 928). CUL copy: The curtains in the background are in a particularly bright green. The cardinal is dressed in bright orange, with some detail in red. The archbishop behind him is in papal white with a yellow pallium, which is tinted (possibly as shading) in purple. His mitre is in yellow with purple details. Frederick wears purple, with pink sleeve / gown with brown fur edging. The pope is in a white simar, with a pallium, which is the same as that worn by the archbishop, although the pope's has green edging also. Note that his gauntlets are bright orange and red, with yellow details and his papal slippers are yellow with red crosses. His papal tiara is in yellow, with purple velvet. The ferula in his hand is in yellow, with a white napkin. WREN copy: Coloured similarly to the CUL copy but in this one the footwear worn by the pope is a reddish-orange with yellow crosses (essentially the reverse the CUL copy).
1563 Edition, page 56 | 1570 Edition, page 278 | 1576 Edition, page 231 | 1583 Edition, page 228[Back to Top]

The description and manner of the poysoning of king Iohn by a Monke of Swinstead Abbey in Lincolnshire.
woodcut [View a larger version]
This image is unique in the work in being composed as a series of six separate panels, somewhat in the form of a narrative strip, as used in early sixteenth century woodcuts. Each panel accordingly bears its descriptive text, but the pictorial presentation is complicated by the central scene at the top of the poisoned king being portrayed within a cartouche, framing it as an image within the image. Rather oddly, it may seem, the narrative sequence runs serpentine fashion from top right to bottom left, starting with the absolution of the poisoner and ending with the mass for his soul. The foldout form of the illustration in 1563 perhaps made this order more obvious. It is to be noted that the illustrator set the elevation of the host by the monks of Swineshead not only at an altar with lit candles but also in a church or chapel with stained glass windows (an art form that remained visible in English churches in Foxe's day, to the anguish of Puritan purifiers). The central scene of the king receiving the poisoned cup has been seen as a parody of transubstantiation and the mass. Possibly the woodblock for this image ended up serving other uses, after leaving Foxe's book and being cut up. The British Musuem has a print of the two left panels which at first glance could be taken to be self-sufficient, though small traces of the hatching of the adjacent panel point to its lost neighbours. As with the previous illustration, this one appears to have inspired authors of the seventeenth century. In his play The Female Prelate (1680), for example, Elkanah Settle describes the Duke of Saxony: 'Poisoned by a Priest, his savage Confessor, / That curses Slave that fed upon his Smiles, / Fill'd the dire Bowl, and whilst the canting / Villain was whispering Heaven into his Ear, could lift / Damnation to his Lips.' Later in the play, the son and successor of the slain duke declares to the murderer, 'I will bequeath my dukedom to paynters and engravers to revenge me. There's not the humblest roof in all the principality of Saxony, that shall not have thy face drawn to the life in hell'. CUL copy: the monks' outfits are in greyish black. There is some considerable attention to detail in these robes – particularly in the scene of the monk removing the lid from the cup in the bottom central scene. Note that in the bottom left image, the stained glass windows have not been coloured in, except for the top left figure, which is covered crudely with blue paint.The priest elevating the host is dressed in white with a purple robe, which has blue lining. Note also the attention to detail in the frog from which the monk is extracting poison: it has a green belly with reddish limbs and head. WREN copy: the stained glass remains uncoloured and there is some poor detailing in black ink.
1563 Edition, page 122 | 1570 Edition, page 343[Back to Top]
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