Friday, February 10, 2012

Mystery Printing Block No. 2

This one is a little more difficult to see - but much more interesting. The block itself is a little corroded and I have rubbed chalk into the grooves to make it as visible as possible but even so, you may have to click it and enlarge it to appreciate some of the details.

This block appears to show a First World War era British soldier in a posture of crucifixion. What makes it more bizarre still is that his hands and feet are pierced not by nails but by bayonets. There was a persistent rumour during WW1 of this atrocity having been perpetrated by German soldiers either on a Canadian or a British soldier in France. There was even an investigation into the matter which concluded that there was not enough evidence to say whether it had ever happened. This image is made even more interesting, to me at least, by the other figures. The artist has depicted the mourners at the bottom of the 'cross' as ordinary women in very poor clothing while, in the background, posher, well-dressed ladies and gents are clearly scurrying by, trying to get away from or ignore the scene. There is something more than a little subversive about this plate which seems to be taking the 1918 equivalent of an urban myth and turning it into a metaphor for the class dynamics of the war.

I have very good authority saying that the style is very similar to a group of artists known as the School of Rome but, as yet, no one has been able to pin it down to a particular artist and I have not yet found this image printed in any publication.

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