Brant: Seastorm

VP1502_052_124v_The_seastorm_Aen._1_50-156_0.jpg
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In the top right quadrant of the image, Juno convinces Aeolus, king of the winds, to release the winds onto Aeneas's ships (I 65-80). The winds are depicted as four heads facing in cardinal directions blowing the winds from their mouths. These winds, in a rocky cave, take up the top left quadrant (81-87). Above Aeolus is a small raincloud with a small amount of rain. In the bottom half of the image, one of Aeneas's ships has a broken mast and another has its sails furled, signs that the fleet has endured a storm. There is one larger swell under Aeneas's ship, perhaps remnants of the storm. Neptune is on the left side below the winds, calming the storm (124-156, esp. 125-141). The combination of elements add up to a depiction of the moment just after the storm that occurred in lines 81-94 and 102-123. (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. 124v, executed by an anonymous engraver under the direction of Brant.

Comments: 

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).

In Brant's...illustration, it is again mythology, rather than drama, which predominates to trace a history of the storm from Juno's royal visit to Aeolus's prison of the winds (fig. 12). The winds' grotesque faces peer outward from their womblike cavern (Vergil's "loca feta furentibus Austris") breathing decorative swirls. Rain falls from the clouds in this tempestuous region, but below it, the disturbance to Aeneas's fleet seems minimal. The ships float placidly in a rippled sea with Aeneas's upturned face the only sign of distress (Eleanor Winsor Leach).

Bibliography: 

Werner Suerbaum, Handbuch der illustrierten Vergil-Ausgaben, 1502–1840 (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 2008) VP 1502, nr. 52.

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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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
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Date: 
1502
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Location: 
University of Heidelberg
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