View More View Less
  • 1 H-1073, Budapest, Barcsay u. 16., Hungary
Restricted access

Cross Mark


A special iconographic interpretation of the Holy Trinity is represented by an engraving kept in the Strahov abbey library of the Premonstratensian canons of Prague. The print was made after Dionysius Strauss' drawing and is the artist's first extant holy image engraved in copperplate. In the monastery of Hradiško u Olomouce Strauss was regarded as the artist of the order respected for the inventiveness of his themes. It is a known fact from 1695 that he presented a painting on the birthday of prior Bernard Wanzke showing the crucified Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit with lambs feeding on the blood gushing forth from the Son's side. Undoubtedly, the graphic sheet marked “P. Dion. Straus delin. — J. Tscherning sculp.” was made after the lost painting. The words in the banderole above the composition “ut vitam habeant” (that they may have life) are from St John's gospel (Jn 10,10).

A somewhat modified variant of the theme is a copperplate engraving also from the late 17th century by Johann Gaspar Gutwein (1669–1730) who worked in Prague, Brno, Augsburg, Regensburg and Graz. The print marked “J. G. Gutwein sc. Brunae” probably adorned the flyleaf of a book. This precious specimen of my private collection shows an infant angel with clasped hands behind the cross, with a quotation from St Luke's gospel on the banderole falling down by its elbow: “… parata sunt omnia” (all things are now ready, Luke 14,17). The words refer to the feast of the flock of the Saviour. The blood and water from the side of Christ collected in a pearl-shell refer to the life-giving and maintaining sacraments of baptism and the eucharist from which the scrawny lambs will gain strength.

There is a little known 18th century oil painting in the St Maurice Benedictine monastery of Bakonybél. There are no inscriptions, but white lambs are feeding on the life-giving blood which has cleaned them, flowing from Christ's side into a bowl. The tree of paradise with the serpent is in the background to indicate that Christ's sacrifice on the cross was made in reparation of the original sin: Christ defeated Satan on the cross. This peculiar version of the Holy Trinity representations originated from catholic Moravia in the Tridentine revival of spirituality in Central Europe, as the above described depictions suggest.