Folio broadsheet (348 x 272 mm). Hand-colored and varnished engraving, trimmed almost to platemark and mounted on contemporary stiff card paper, the contemporary coloring in maroon, reddish orange, green, and pale pink, on a yellow ground; some creasing, a few small tears, patch-repaired on verso, one 1-inch open tear touching image, small border losses, upper edge rubbed. ***
An unusual hand-colored and varnished engraving, commemorating a pilgrimage to the church of Our Lady of Maria Steinbach, in Legau, Bavaria. The image shows the crowned Virgin on a pedestal with a dagger piercing her breast (a reference to the prophecy of Simeon, Luke 2,35, describing a metaphorical sword piercing Mary’s soul), emanating rays and surrounded by 14 winged angels’ heads, within a rococo frame; the title is on a cartouche below her feet. The word Attacta (feminine perfect passive participle of attingere) which concludes the title was used, apparently only in the 18th and 19th centuries, to indicate that a devotional image of a pilgrimage icon had touched the holy painting or statue itself and was therefore blessed. In other words, through a magical process, the print itself was openly acknowledged to have become an object of worship, charged with special sanctitude.
This astonishing break with Catholic doctrine is especially ironic in the present context: The pilgrimage to the church of Maria Steinbach had originated relatively recently, in 1730, with a rumor that the eyes of a statue of the Virgin within the church were moving, and that its face was flushed as if with weeping. The statue rapidly became the object of a popular pilgrimage, as stories of its miracle-working powers spread. At first church officials in Constance tried to suppress the movement, but, as often in such cases of spontaneous Marian fervor, it was decided that a wiser move would be to accept it by attempting to co-opt it. A commission was formed to take the testimony of witnesses to the miracles under oath, all of which was carefully recorded, and the Bishop of Constance gave his blessing to the new shrine in 1733, demonstrating “the power of the laity over the nature of Catholic devotion” (Forster). A new church, with lavish Rococo decoration, was built on the site, in which scenes of 8 miracles, taken from miracle books of 1738 and 1746, were painted on the ceiling by Franz Georg Hermann. In their presentation these miracles were delicately subsumed into a theological context, the clergy being wary of accusations by Protestants from the surrounding area that they were promoting idolatry.
Nonetheless, as always, a parallel practice of religiosity continued, outside the doctrinal boundaries of the Church. People prayed at the shrine, and also continued to practice less orthodox forms of religious “Andacht” (devotion). “The statue was even available outside Steinbach”: already, in his testimony to the commission, one witness had stated that “he prayed to a picture of the Gnadenbild in his house” (Forster). The present engraving testifies to the continuation of this practice a full generation later.
The yellow tone and application of lacquer or varnish may have been intended to imitate yellow silk: a few devotional engravings from Maria Steinbach printed on silk are known.
The woodcutter, engraver, stencil-maker (Patronist) and publisher Franz Xavier Endres or Endress had begun his career as a miniature painter, and was admitted (somewhat controversially) to the ranks of Patronisten, or stencil designers (perhaps also designers of woodcut and engraved images) in 1744. From about 1753 to 1780 he managed a successful business publishing devotional imagery and ephemera, of “illustrated prayer cards, blessings for the house and stable, broadsides, indulgences, and so on” (Gebetszettel, Haus- und Stallsegen, Bilderbogen, Ablassblattern, usw.: Spamer, p. 233).
References: A. Spamer, Das kleine Andachtsbild, pp. 233 & 190 note 4; Gier & Janota, eds., Augsburger Buchdruck und Verlagswesen, pp. 392 & 1285; Marc B. Forster, “Debating the Meaning of Pilgrimage: Maria Steinbach 1733,” J. Van Horn Melton, ed., Cultures of Communication from Reformation to Enlightenment: Constructing Publics in the Early Modern German Lands (2002, viewed online, unpaginated. A later version of this article appears in Forster’s Catholic Revival in the Age of the Baroque: Religious Identity in Southwest Germany, 1750-1770, 2004). On the church of Maria Steinbach, see Wikipedia article,” Zur Schmerzhaften Muttergottes und St. Ulrich (Maria Steinbach).”. Item #2883