Brant: The Shooting Match

In the center of the image, a dove is tied to a pole made from the broken mast of Serestus' ship. On the right, Hippocoon, Mnestheus, Eurytion [labeled as Pandarus] and Acestes try to shoot down the dove. Though Vergil gives all four archers proper bows, the artists gives only Hippocoon an archery style bow, while the rest hold crossbows. Hippocoon's arrow has stuck in the mast directly below the place where the bird is tied onto the pole (502-6). Mnestheus is poised to shoot; his arrow will sever the rope tying the bird to the pole (507-12). Erytion, who will then shoot the bird, is shown kneeling, directly in front of the pole, loading his crossbow (513-6). Between Erytion and Mnestheus, Acestes prepares to shoot his arrow up into the air, for show, since the prize has been won by Erytion. His loosed arrow is shown in the upper left corner, marked as an omen by rays of sun through the clouds; in Vergil, the arrow also catches fire (519-28). A crowd of onlookers, including Aeneas, stands to the left of the mast. The woman standing closest to the mast holds a vessel, which will be presented to Acestes as a prize at the end of the contest.  (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. 242v, 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)

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