ca. 1450 Colmar - Breisach 1491
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Auszug zum Markt – The Peasant Family going to Market ca. 1470 or shortly thereafter
engraving; 164 x 164 mm (6 7/16 x 6 7/16 inches)
Bartsch 88; Lehrs, Hollstein and The New Hollstein 90 only state
Richard Zinser, Forest Hills (stamped, not in Lugt)
A very good impression; showing small margins at top and bottom, trimmed on the platemark along the sides.
This unusual engraving is an early work by Schongauer, one that he is thought to have created around 1470, shortly after his return to Colmar from his Wanderjahre. N.G. Stogdon calls this “the period of Schongauer’s first transition” when the artist “was casting about not only for subject matter by which he might profit, but also for a means of extending the life of his plates … by adjusting his engraving technique so that many more decent impressions could be taken” (N.G. Stogdon, Catalogue 10: Martin Schongauer, 1996, s.p., no. 31).
This would also account for the unusual subject matter. Embedded in a landscape that displays Schongauer’s knowledge of Netherlandish paintings of the period, we see a pair of scruffy-looking peasants who seem to be carrying their goods—a basket of eggs, a heavy sack perhaps filled with beets, and two geese—to the market. Their appearance differs markedly from that of the elegantly attired couple behind them on the same road in the middle ground. The peasant man is leading the horse on which his wife and child sit. The elaborate yet far-too-large cap of the boy has probably been borrowed from his father, as Stogdon observes. The man’s large sword in a worn scabbard (a Scheibenknaufschwert) is especially noticeable here and alludes to the status of the Marktbauer (market peasant)—widely criticized but grudgingly tolerated by the authorities at the time—who claims the right to carry a weapon he is not entitled to by class. The peasant couple’s shabby appearance might represent a comment on this presumptuousness but Schongauer’s engraving goes beyond a mere exemplum ridiculosum; indeed, the expansive landscape setting and the sheer size of the plate are unique for a peasant print of the fifteenth century. A further aspect of the artistic ennoblement of this scene from everyday life is the apparent allusion to the subject of the Flight into Egypt, a theme with which every contemporary viewer would have been entirely familiar.