chapter  3
18 Pages

Cultivating Designs

Early Ornamental Prints and Creative Reproduction
WithJames Wehn

This chapter explores the late fifteenth-century market for prints featuring vegetal designs, considering especially those by Israhel van Meckenem, active mainly in Bocholt from the 1460s until his death in 1503, as well as their reception by his contemporary, Hartmann Schedel, who lived and worked in Nuremberg. Israhel chose the formula of the ornamental print as a means to summarize his identity in name, profession, and spiritual life and to demonstrate his God-given creative potency. As a print, this work is the figurative multiplication of the engraver’s fruitfulness. During the late fifteenth century, the market for prints featuring ornamental leaves and blossoms developed out of long-standing workshop practices that depended on the selection and reproduction of existing images as a means to produce new works. In and out of the late fifteenth-century workshop, printed ornamental designs were viewed actively and considered changeable; their owners treated them as if they were fertile seeds in a cycle of creative reproduction.