Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Early Modern Period

16th - 18th century


The smooth transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age is conventionally fixed on such events as the Reformation and the discovery of the "New World," which brought about the emergence of a new image of man and his world. Humanism, which spread out of Italy, also made an essential contribution to this with its promotion of a critical awareness of Christianity and the Church. The Reformation eventually broke the all-embracing power of the Church. After the Thirty Years' War, the concept of a universal empire was also nullified. The era of the nation-state began, bringing with it the desire to build up political and economic power far beyond Europe. The Americas, Africa, and Asia provided regions of expansion for the Europeans.

Proportions of the Human Figure by Leonardo da Vinci (drawing, ca. 1490)
is a prime example of the new approach of Renaissance
artists and scientists to the anatomy of the human body.



Baldung's Witches




see also:

"Faeries" by H. Johnson

see also:

"Good faeries & bad faeries" by B. Froud



Hans Baldung Grien



Sieben damonische Tiere als die sieben Hauptsunden
Druck, Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, Graphische Sammlung



"When Shall We Three Meet Again"

Europe swept by witch-burnings



Two Witches


Now I come to speak of the greatest of all heresies: of the mischief wrought by witches and fiends. By night they fly through the air on broomsticks, stove forks, cats, goats or other such things. Witchcraft is the most accursed of all errors - and it must be mercilessly punished by fire.

Mathiasvon Kemnat, Chronicle of Frederick the Victorious of the Palatinate, c.1480;
heading: William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 1


Hell's weather cauldrom, 1489

They concocted devilish ointments of toads' eyes, choke cherries, peppercorns and spiders. They poisoned the air with powders ground from intestines. They caused cataclysmic deluges to fall from the heavens. Thev set off avalanches and turned themselves into red-eyed goats. Their favourite food was pickled children. Imagination knew no bounds when it came to describing the monstrous things done by witches and their evil powers. Some early tales are inadvertently funny. Witches blew up storms by vigorously fanning them with their slippers or slid down into valleys on the backs of avalanches, the tails of their scarves flapping in the wind. In early Modern times, however, witches were no laughing matter. Enlightened bishops who castigated belief in ghosts, witches and black magic and regarded it as utter nonsense that represented a revival of pagan practices were not heeded. Most theologians not only promoted dark superstition; they were convinced that sorcery was a reality and the result of pacts with the devil. Witchcraft was heresy, which made it doubly important to prosecute it and to persecute practitioners. In 1487 a compendium of horror stories was published in Strasbourg, the Hexenhammer (Witches' Hammer), which continued to be read in Europe until the seventeenth century. Both Protestant and Catholic judges consulted it as a penal code for dealing with witchcraft. One can imagine King James, famously obsessed with witchcraft, having been sent a copy by his daughter from the Palatinate. At any rate, the book may be said to have sparked off much of the witch-burning madness of the early Modern age. Its authors approved of torture, maintaining that women in particular were inclined to the sin of witchcraft. Of course women who gave themselves up to "lust and carnal desire or even sodomy" were prime targets for persecution. The German painter Hans Baldung Grien, who from 1509 lived in Strasbourg where Hexenhammer had been published not long before most likely wanted to get in on the act with his Two Witches. Despite the continued call for moderation and reason, witch-burnings which had ceased in England by 1685 were still common practice on mainland Europe as late as 1749. Trials however continued until 1717 in England, whereas the last recorded trial of a witch took place in 1793 in Germany.


Burning witches at the stake, 1555


Witch Sabbath








Three Witches



Witch and Dragon.


Departing for the Sabbath


The Three Fates


Sitzendes nacktes Hexe (
Witch), nach rechts gewendet
Studie, Berlin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin


Nackte Kugellauferin


Kampfendes nacktes Paar

See also collection:

Hans Baldung




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