Christ in the Winepress (The Mystical Winepress) in Breviarium Romanum by Jakob Wolff (Basel c.1493), print pasted in front mirror by Caspar (?)

Caspar ?

Christ in the Winepress (The Mystical Winepress), in Breviarium Romanum by Jakob Wolff (Basel c.1493), print pasted in front mirror, 1460–70, Woodcut , 388 x 257 mm (sheet), Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich, MS Rar. 327, vol. 1 BOD-Ink B-897 - GW 5165, Courtesy of Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich

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The Crimson Garments

Read by Ben Quash

Single-sheet prints were first produced from woodblocks in the early 1400s. Many of those that were made as individual artworks do not survive, and those in good condition were often preserved because they were pasted inside books. This woodcut print was glued to the inside front cover of a fifteenth-century breviary from a Franciscan monastery in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt.

By the second century Christians began to interpret the ‘crimsoned garments’ of Isaiah 63:1–3 (cf. Revelation 19:11–16) as a prophecy of Christ’s blood-stained body. Christ treads the winepress during his Passion, producing the Eucharistic cup. This reading took deep root in the literary and iconographic tradition of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and was depicted in a wide variety of media, including woodcuts, illuminated manuscripts, frescoes, stained glass, and even sculpted stone relief.

Glued into the breviary, this woodcut invites its user to contemplate Christ’s Passion and the Eucharist. As Christ treads the grapes, his blood drips down, mixing with the juice of the fruit and draining into a chalice. With his right arm wrapped around the winepress’s upper beam, Christ pulls the press down upon himself, as if to intensify his sufferings. With God the Father above him and Mary at his left, Christ points to his pierced side—the wound most associated with the Eucharist—as though to warn the viewer not to doubt as Thomas did (John 20:24–29).

The Evangelists surround Christ, depicted by their symbols (from the Prophet Ezekiel’s vision as recounted in Ezekiel 1; cf. Revelation 4:6–8): a man (Matthew), lion (Mark), ox (Luke), and eagle (John). St Matthew, in the lower right, dips his quill into the chalice, literally writing his Gospel with Christ’s blood and thereby emphasizing the unity of Scripture with the Word made flesh (verbum incarnatum and verbum scriptum). Cascading like a waterfall of words, seven banderoles present the figures’ prayers, in which the worshipper is invited to join.



Gertsman, Elina. 2013. ‘Multiple Impressions: Christ in the Winepress and the Semiotics of the Printed Image’, Art History, 36.2: 310–337

Gurewich, Vladimir. 1957. ‘Observations on the Iconography of the Wound in Christ’s Side, with Special Reference to Its Position’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 20.3/4: 358–362

Parshall, Peter and Rainer Schoch. 2005. Origins of European Printmaking: Fifteenth-Century Woodcuts and Their Public (New Haven: Yale University Press)

Wilken, Robert Louis (trans.) with Angela Russell Christman and Michael J. Hollerich. 2007. Isaiah: Interpreted by Early Christian and Medieval Commentators, The Church’s Bible (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans)

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