Brant: Aeneas Passes the Island of Circe

    In the upper right corner, mourners pay respects to the tomb of Aeneas's nurse, Caieta (1-7). The rest of the upper half of the image shows Circe's island. The sorceress sits spinning wool on a distaff, surrounded by cages of animals. These animals include boars, wolves, a lion, and an animal that is supposed to be a bear but looks more like a sheep (10-20). In the lower right, Aeneas and his men sail past the island with the help of a strong favoring wind from Neptune (21-4). The ship enters the mouth of the Tiber river (25-36), marked as a river by reeds in the bottom right corner.

    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. 288r, 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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