Brant: Dido's First Appearance

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In this image, Dido sits on a high throne under the arches of the temple of Juno, with attendants behind her (505-8). According to T.E. Page (1967, 188 ad 505), Dido should be sitting inside the temple but Brant depicts her outside the building. She receives a group of Trojans, led by Cloanthus, Ilioneus, and others (510-11), who got separated from Aeneas in the storm earlier in book I (see I 50-156); the boat full of armed soldiers belongs to them (cunctis...navibus 518). On land near the ships, armed Carthaginians bar the ships from landing in the harbor (540-1). In the background, Aeneas, who is stationed behind the Carthaginian soldiers, but not associated with them, sees his comrades approach Dido (509) and decides to watch and listen to the interaction between them before he makes his presence known (509; 513-19). In Vergil's description, Achates stands with Aeneas, but Brant does not include him in his illustration. The cloud of fog in which Vergil hides Aeneas (516; 587) is also not present. (Katy Purington)

Woodcut illustration from the “Strasbourg Vergil,” edited by Sebastian Brant: Publii Virgilii Maronis Opera cum quinque vulgatis commentariis expolitissimisque figuris atque imaginibus nuper per Sebastianum Brant superadditis (Strasbourg: Johannis Grieninger, 1502), fol. 145v, executed by an anonymous engraver under the direction of Brant.


Sebastian Brant (1458­­–1521) was a humanist scholar of many competencies. Trained in classics and law at the University of Basel, Brant later lectured in jurisprudence there and practiced law in his native city of Strasbourg. While his satirical poem Das Narrenschiff won him considerable standing as a writer, his role in the transmission of Virgil to the Renaissance was at least as important. In 1502 he and Strasbourg printer Johannes Grüninger produced a major edition of Virgil’s works, along with Donatus’ Life and the commentaries of Servius, Landino, and Calderini, with more than two hundred woodcut illustrations. (Annabel Patterson)


Werner Suerbaum, Handbuch der illustrierten Vergil-Ausgaben, 1502–1840 (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 2008) VP 1502, no. 57.

Annabel Patterson, “Sebastian Brant: Illustration as Exegesis,” in Pastoral and Ideology: Virgil to Valéry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), p. 92.

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