Category Archives: Woodcut

Curiosities Family Food Women Woodcut

Every day she nourisht him, with her most tender brest

Two intriguing early modern woodcuts which depict the breastfeeding scene from the story of Roman Charity recorded by Valerius Maximus. Pero secretly breastfeeds her father Cimon who is imprisoned and otherwise liable to starve to death. Her selfless act leads to her father’s pardon and release. The story appears to have been popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and even Rubens depicted the scene. Below are both woodcuts, the first dates from 1635, and the second from 1750. It’s interesting to note the same image inverted and changed in the second woodcut. These are the only examples of breastfeeding images in woodcuts I’ve seen to date.

From A worthy example of a vertuous wife who fed her father with her own milk, being condemned to be famished to death and after was pardoned by the Emperor. To the tune of Flying fame (1635)


From Roman charity: A worthy example of a virtuous wife, who fed her father with her own milk. He being commanded by the emperor to be starved to death, but afterwards pardoned (1750)


Roman Charity by Rubens (c.1612)

Death Execution Gunpowder Plot Woodcut

Execution Woodcuts

Three woodcuts from the the mid seventeenth century. The first two depict execution by hanging, drawing, and quartering, which was the standard method of execution for convicted traitors. The third depicts Guy Fawkes’ head on a spike.





Politics Religion Woodcut

This Ungodly Crew


The extraordinary woodcut below comes from a text dated 1650 entitled The Ranters Ranting. The Ranters were a religious sect which flourished during the English Commonwealth (1649-1660). They rejected the authority of the Church, and to an extent the wider authority of the government. They were often associated with nudity and sexual immorality.



Church Custom Household London Woodcut

Where you may hear news


Today’s post is taken from the above woodcut, dated 1640 and entitled The severall places where you may hear news. Before the advent of printed newspapers, people in England relied on hearing the latest news via other people. In London, daily life consisted of at least one trip to the precincts of St Paul’s to catch the latest gossip and rumour from both home and abroad. This lovely woodcut reveals the other sources of news available to inhabitants of big cities, and depicts aspects of domesticity in seventeenth century life. Below are some close-up details.










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