Vorstellung der Evangelisch-Ost-Indischen Kirche. Johann Jacob / RIEDINGER KLEINSCHMIDT, Johann Elias.
Early Protestant Missionaries in India
[India] / [Engraving] / [Lutheranism].
Augsburg, Kleinschmidt, [1730]

Vorstellung der Evangelisch-Ost-Indischen Kirche.

Copperplate engraving [83.5 x 55.5 cm], (1) folio. Fold marks, minor edge wear, otherwise a very good copy in very crisp, dark impression.

Rare, large-format engraved broadside produced in 1730 as part of the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession (1530), one of the foundational documents of Lutheranism. The subject of the print is the famous Tranquebar Mission in southern India, which was established by King Frederick IV of Denmark (1671-1730) and led by the German missionaries Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg (1682-1719) and Heinrich Plütschau (1676-1752), who are noted for having translated the Bible into Tamil and arranged for its printing.

The engraving, executed by Johann Jacob Kleinschmidt after a design by Elias Riedinger, is a splendid example of 18th-century Augsburg printmaking. It takes as its compositional conceit a church altar surmounted by a framed retable. The image above the altar depicts the German missionaries preaching to an audience of natives; in the background of this scene can be glimpsed a statue of ‘Biruma oder Brama’ (Brahma). The elaborately carved frame of the retable is enlivened with vignettes illustrating the successes of the Lutheran mission, e.g., an Indian smashing an idol, a native being baptized, a domesticated elephant symbolizing the people under God’s yoke, etc.

Placed atop the altar are oval portraits of Ziegenbalg and Plütschau (their names written in Tamil) and the books they translated (an Indian bible, an Indian catechism, and an Indian hymnal). A map of southern India hangs on the front face of the altar. Flanking the altar are two young natives: the boy on the left holds the Danish Royal arms, and the boy on the right displays the architectural plan of the New Jerusalem Church in Tranquebar (built by the Germans and dedicated in 1719). In front of the altar are fallen symbols of the old dispensation. At the foot of the sheet is a poem in Latin and German celebrating the expansion of the Lutheran faith to all corners of the world.

The engraving is one of several (quite ambitious) broadside prints produced in Augsburg to commemorate the bicentennial of the Augsburg Confession, some of which apparently reproduced paintings executed for the occasion. These rather disparate graphic productions were collected by Johann Michael Roth in 1730/31 and released as a small-edition composite volume with an added engraved title page reading Augspurgisches Iubel-Gedächtnüs. The contents of this (rather odd) production vary greatly from copy to copy. Kleinschmidt’s Vorstellung der Evangelisch-Ost-Indischen Kirche engraving apparently was a commercial success, because in 1736, citing demand, he released a small-format version of the work (its composition slightly altered).

 

OCLC locates U.S. examples of the Augspurgisches Iubel-Gedächtnüs at Illinois, Duke, Getty, Stanford, Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Emory, Concordia Seminary, and Cal. State Sutro. The Getty copy includes Kleinschmidt’s Vorstellung der Evangelisch-Ost-Indischen Kirch, but it is not clear which other examples include this engraving.

* Drugulin, Historischer Bilderatlas, 4112; S. Neill, A History of Christianity in India.

Price: $1,850.00