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Carol M. Schuler

Works in various graphic media used principally for the veneration of religious figures or events.

The use of prints for devotional purposes dates as far back as the history of printmaking in the West. The oldest extant woodcuts (early 15th century; see Woodcut, §II, 2) commonly portray popular saints as well as Christ and the Virgin. Sold and possibly also manufactured by monks at pilgrimage shrines, these simple depictions of venerated holy figures provided relatively inexpensive, portable devotional objects for the faithful. Not treasured for their intrinsic artistic value, the few known works have survived by accident, having been pasted into manuscript or book covers or on to box lids. Many lost woodcuts decorated home shrines or modest chapels; others were pasted over fireplaces or on to walls and doors. Prints depicting guardian saints also functioned as amulets to ward off disease and death; many were sewn into articles of clothing....