Archive for the Woodcut Category

Gruss vom Hexentanzplatz, 1899

Posted in 19thC, Postcard, SFW, Woodcut on 14 November 2009 by redwitch1

Here is a Hexentanzplatz postcard you can compare to my previous—and heavily populated—HTL version (i.e. Hold To Light).

The postcard is an unsigned woodblock image, whereas most of the others I have seen are lithographed. It is is dated 28 August 1899; it is postmarked on the same day from Thale and on the following day from “Colenfeld” (i.e. Kolenfeld, which belongs to the city of Wunstorf, in the district of Hanover, Germany).

In this card we have six witches and a couple of bats on their way to the Hexentanzplatz [the witches’ dancing place] on Brocken Mountain in Germany. The leader is riding side-saddle on a pig; she is followed by two witches on brooms, one on a pitch-fork, one riding side-saddle on a goat and one who seems to be standing on the hill-side waving to the others.

Our witches are—as usual for this blog, and for German witch-themed postcards generally—either undressed or under-dressed. Perhaps the ostensible reason for this is that our witches had all sneaked out at night and were in their night-clothes. If so, these witches slept in an interesting array of under-things: from full-length dresses (the witch on the pig), through sleeveless-slips (the witches on the brooms), to just a skirt and no top at all (the witch on the goat).

I think this one is my favourite. It is a very cute goat.

The Witches’ Ride, 1870

Posted in 19thC, Magazine, SFW, Woodcut on 14 December 2007 by redwitch1

This woodcut of five witches on their way to the sabbat is titled “Hexenritt” [The Witches Ride]. It is dated to 1870 and is a copy of a painting by Gustav Adolf Spangenberg (1828-91). I have not been able to find out much about either Spangenberg or this this picture, although in 1862 Spangenberg produced a different work under the title “Walpurgisnacht” [Walpurgis Night].

The image is taken from a page that I bought as a cutting. It is very fragile and heavily tanned (because of the acids in the low-quality paper), but I have not been able to find a better copy, or a complete issue of the magazine. It looks better in black and white, as you can see:

A reversed and coloured version of this image appears in Susan Bowes’ Life Magic: The Power of Positive Witchcraft (New York: Simon Schuster, 1999), p.109, which is credited to AKG London (the “Archiv für Kunst und Geschichte” [Art and History Archive] of Berlin, London and Paris).

I was in two minds about including this image on Sexy Witch until I saw the colourised version. It made me realise that the two women in the foreground are definitely justification enough, because they are certainly not hags. What made me hesitate was the pubescent daughter clinging to the back of one of them. The Late Medieval and Early Modern tradition in Europe seems to offer only one role for adults and one for children at a sabbat: the (unbaptised) babies are eaten, everyone else participates in the Satanic rites (eating the aforesaid babies, kissing Satan’s arse, dancing, cavorting and copulating with demons). It seems likely, therefore, that this young woman is on her way to an orgy, possibly her first. But, for the record, whatever the age of the daughter, I have included the image because of the two women (the “yummy mummy” witches).

As a final note, given the poor paper of the original, it seems likely that the colouring was done recently, after it had been copied by AKG (either that, or my copy has been reversed, and there was an earlier printing on better paper, a coloured version of which survives. Possible, but I doubt it. More information anyone?).

Pears’ Soap Witch, 1899

Posted in 19thC, Advertising, SFW, Woodcut on 13 October 2007 by redwitch1

This 1899 advertisement for Pears’ Soap is an unsigned woodcut, which was photographically reproduced and printed, dozens at a time, on large sheets of paper, before being pasted onto card, cut down to individual images (205 x 130 mm) and distributed. Despite the mass production of these advertising cards, few examples survive.

The same advertising image and caption was used in newspapers (one example survives in a newspaper cutting file at Smithsonian (here) and in magazines, where it competed with very similar advertisements being used by Sapolio (which I will do a post on later).

The caption on the card reads:

Whither! Oh Whither! Fair Maiden so High?
To Write the Name of PEARS on the Sky.
Why go so far from the Land of your Birth?
Because it is Written all over the Earth.

This is a version of a very old eight-line Nursery Rhyme “There was an old woman tossed up in a basket” which dates back to Mother Goose’s Melody (1780):

There was an old woman tossed up in a basket
Nineteen times as high as the moon.
And where she was going I couldn’t but ask it
For in her hand she carried a broom.

“Old woman! old woman!! old woman!!!” quoth I.
“Oh whither Oh whither Oh whither, so high.”
“To sweep the cobwebs off the sky.”
“And I’ll be with you again by and bye.”

This Nursery Rhyme was the inspiration for a Fancy Dress costume of the “Old Woman who Swept the Sky” described by Ardern Holt as a “Red cloak; witch’s hat; broom in hand; high pointed bodice with ruff and bunched up chintz skirt.” (Fancy Dresses Described; Or, What to Wear at Fancy Balls 5th ed. (1887); for my post on Holt, see here).

Pears’ have ditched the “Old woman” for a “Fair Maiden,” changed the mode of transport from a “basket” to the previously-decorative broom, and changed the destination from ‘Nineteen times as high as the moon’ to “the sky … all over the earth.” They have also got rid of the traditional “high pointed bodice with ruff and bunched up chintz skirt” for a diaphanous dishabille wrap. Very nice.

And, in case it is not already obvious, the witch is writing “the Name of PEARS on the Sky” with her index finder: which would be more obvious and impressive if the letters were visible. Of course, it may be that the cards were intended to stand on the right-hand side of piles of Pears’ Soap, with the witch pointing at them (and, therefore, the name “PEARS”).


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