A Painter turned Pamphleteer

Greiffenberger, Hans (fl. 1524)

Ein trostliche ermanung den angefocht(e)n gewissen vo(n) wegen gethoner sünd, wye un(d) wamitt Sye getröst werdenn, den Sathan, sich nit erschrecken lassenn.

Augsburg: M. Ramminger, 1524


Quarto: 20.5 x 15.5 cm. [12] p. Collation: A6

FIRST EDITION, one of two issues.

A crisp, bright copy in a modern guard. With a very fine four-part woodcut border with a gentleman and a lady. Excellent.

Hans Greiffenberger was a Nuremberg painter who ran afoul of the authorities for both his art and for his subversive religious activism. In October 1524 he was investigated on the charge of creating an unsuitable and offensive painting and "because he seduces the people to a new sect." The artwork was described as "a shameful painting that he made against papal sanctity."

While he lacked the literary skills of Hans Sachs, Greiffenberger's works had a similar immediacy. In this work, "A comforting admonition to those troubled in the knowledge of past sins", he demonstrates his theological depth. It is also his most accomplished work in terms of style.

“Greiffenberger was one of the more prolific German lay pamphleteers. He published seven pamphlets, two in 1523 and five in 1524. The theology in his pamphlets demonstrates another version of medieval mystical spirituality. He is by no means an Anabaptist protagonist: there is no mention of baptism in the spirit or an opposition to secular authority. There is no clear appeal to a communal society. Yet already in 1523, the artist highlights the importance of the spirit.

"However, the painter was unhappy with the attitude of some Lutherans: ‘it is a peculiar state of affairs, when one does not have to pray any more, or visit churches, or fast, as if faith were enough. Now people need not do any works! These Lutherans eat, drink, and fornicate to excess just as they did before… worse now, because they curse all those who don’t do as they do.”

He compares Lutherans with members of his own profession: ‘they are no better than someone who has a business or a workshop and uses this to annoy his neighbor, like the sculptors and painters, who create images of whores and knaves for profit…because now the saints are out of fashion.’"(Lay theology in the Reformation, pp. 159-161)

VD 16, G 3155; Kuczynski 939