Michael Ostendorfer German Ca. 1490-1559
Hunting party in the Lörs Forrest 1543
Woodcut from 3 blocks
260 × 1100 mm
Hunting Party in the Lörs Forest
Another important function served by the woodcut, perhaps particularly so in the 16th century, was as a means of documenting historical events — great battles, famous tournaments, renowned hunts, coronations, triumphant marches, etc. — as well as topographicalplaces in the form of e.g. maps, charts, prospects of cities, and the like.
Here the motif is a fantastic depiction of a hunting party in the Lörs forest in 1543. We see the forest with glades full of magnificent deer, hunters seeking to bring them down from their various posts around the landscape. Just to the right of the middle is a small stone pillar into which a coat of arms has been carved, the legend 1543 below it. At the top of the picture, above the pillar, we can just make out the roof of a large castle looming above the trees of the forest. To the right of the stone pillar three gentlemen ride through the undergrowth. The rider heading the procession looks particularly distinguished and is accompanied by an extra, saddled horse. He may be the Count of Pfalz, Friedrich II (1482-1556), who owned the forest and hosted the hunt documented in the picture. The coat of arms on the stone pillar is also his. Ostendorfer was court painter to the count at this point.
Above these prints the following text has been printed using a separate block:
A true and accurate rendition and account of the new castle and the deer of the Forest of Lörs between the Neckar and the Rhine in Pfalz.
(Wahrhafftigen Contrafactur und verzeichnuss dess. Neuwen Schloss und dess Hochgewildts im Löserwald zwischen dem Neckar und rheyn in der Pfaltz gelegen ec.)
But what was the point of making such a large, detailed picture? What purpose did it serve? As the inscription states, this is a “wahrhafftigen”, i.e. true, rendition. We are meant to trust that is what things really looks like. Such is the richness of the hunt, such is the magnificence of the animals — and such is the nobility of the people hunting there with the count. Serving as documentation, the picture allowed the count’s status and, very importantly, wealth to be clearly communicated to his peers.