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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst


Title:Saint Barbara
Date Made:ca. 1460-70
Place Made:Europe; Germany
Measurements:Mat: 18 in x 14 in; 45.72 cm x 35.56 cm; Sheet: 5 7/8 in x 3 5/8 in; 14.9225 cm x 9.2329 cm; Plate: 5 1/4 in x 3 in; 13.335 cm x 7.62 cm
Narrative Inscription:  VERSO: [upp. ctr. of sheet, written in brown ink]: .S. Barbara; [upp. l. corner, inside plate impression, written in brown ink]: scribbles resembling a series of arches; [r. of sheet, written in brown ink]: series of overlapping scribbles forming a vertical line that extends about 2.375 in. along the center of the r. sheet edge.
Accession Number:  MH 2009.17
Credit Line:Purchase with the Susan and Bernard Schilling (Susan Eisenhart, Class of 1932) Fund

Wood block print of St. Barbara with her attributes. The saint wears a crown and a gown with a cinched, high waist (hand-colored in yellow) and a mantle (hand-colored in red). She gathers her mantle with her proper left hand and presents a tower and the Eucharist with her proper right hand.

Label Text:
An object of private devotion, this small, unassuming woodblock print is a precursor to the revolutionary technology of the printing press. Presenting an ideal medium for inexpensively produced religious imagery, woodblocks enabled a wide range of people to own cheaply produced religious iconography for private worship within the home.

Here, St. Barbara is depicted holding her two attributes which have been conflated into a single object: the tower in which she was imprisoned and the chalice surmounted by a sacramental wafer to symbolize her faith. Often the patron saint of those who work with explosives, she protects against fire and lightning.

Few details are known about the maker, owner, or even place of origin for this print. The holes in the corners show evidence of being tacked up for contemplation, although pasting prints within books was also common. One owner wrote the saint’s name in pen above the image in a delicate script. The same hand doodled in the margins and began to make an arching pattern over the haloed head of St. Barbara, indicating that this piece of paper was used for personal, perhaps intimate, devotion rather than perceived as a work designed for display in a museum.

-Sadie Shillieto (Class of 2009), Art Advisory Board Fellow, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum
Global Perspectives: Exploring the Art of Devotion (February 9 - May 30, 2010)

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