A Lamentation of God over his vineyard, Devastated by Man's Laws and Deeds

Sachs, Hans (1494-1576)

Ein klag Gottes uber seinen Weinberg, verw├╝stet durch menschen lehr und Gepot.

Nuremberg: Georg Meckel, around 1560


Quarto: 18.8 x 13.8 cm. [4] lvs. A4


Later vellum. A very good copy with very mild foxing. With a small woodcut of a field worker and his lord in conversation. Another man works in the vineyard in the background. EXTREMELY RARE. Only 4 copies located worldwide, all in Germany.

Hans Sachs was a poet, playwright, writer of dialogues, and an accomplished Meistersinger of the Nuremberg School (Sachs is the title character of Wagner’s “Meistersinger”). A shoemaker and guild master by trade, Sachs was an ardent supporter of Luther and the Reformation. Sachs’ songs, plays, and dialogues address the social concerns of his day and the effects of the Reformation on the established social order.

In this work, God the Father visits a man tending a vineyard and complains that His own vineyard has been laid waste through dogmas and laws of men. He warns against sects and sectarians who are but Romanists and sham-religionists. The common man has just become so violent and corrupt that (with a nod to one of Sachs’ other satirical works) God points out that Satan will no longer even let mercenaries into Hell because the inferno is too good for them!

The Woodcut: God and The Common Man

The theme of God lamenting his vineyard has a long history in Christian art. During the Reformation, when the theme was adapted to critique not only man’s sinfulness in general but the corruption of the Catholic Church in particular, depictions of the theme often featured monks uprooting Christ’s vine and a sorrowful God in his Majesty looking on.

By contrast, in the small woodcut on the title page of Sachs’ book, God is represented as a landowner, with no trappings to indicate his divinity. Likewise, the vineyard worker to whom he speaks and the other who continues to work the vineyard in the background wear ordinary clothes. It is only the oratorical gesture of the vineyard owner and the presence of the vineyard that signal the theme. Devoid of overt allegory, the woodcut reflects the characteristic earthiness of Sachs’ “mundane” perspective and his focus on the actions and thoughts of the individual.

VD 16, S 399, Weller 88