Daniel Hopfer, attributed
German Ca. 1470-1536
Franciscan Munk in a garden — evangelist symbols in each corner. Ca. 1501. Title page for Pelbartus af Temesvár: Pomerium de Tempore. Augsburg 1502.
White line woodcut, 178 × 118 mm
Franciscan Munk in a Garden
The traditional black and white woodcut came in a number of variants, such as the white line woodcut. The picture shows a Franciscan monk sitting in an enclosed garden, studying, very much like one of the evangelists; the evangelist symbolists even appear in the four corners.
But whereas conventional woodcuts form the motif out of black lines — i.e. the black lines were formed by carving the block, whereupon they were inked and printed onto the paper — the motif in a white line woodcut is formed by white lines. The motif is carved down into the block — which is to say that the lines seen in the motif are cut away. Thus, everything that is not a line is left on the block and is inked and printed into the paper.
The technique was developed in the years around 1500, but never became very popular. Perhaps because the picture will, by its very nature, end up very dark and have a nocturnal feel — and be more difficult to read.