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Storytelling in Miniature

Hans Sebald Beham
German, 1500–1550

Peasants Dancing or Couple Dancing Face to Face, from “The Wedding Procession”

Engraving, 1537
1 13/16 x 1 1/4 in.
Museum purchase, 1926.14

Sebald Beham is thought to be one of the first printmakers to popularize peasant festival imagery. Beginning with woodcuts as early as 1524, Beham continued to produce images focusing on both religious and secular celebrations throughout the remainder of his artistic career. Perhaps because metal plates allowed for smaller images, the artist switched from woodcuts to engravings around 1537.

It is interesting to speculate about the increased attention paid to the peasant class considering that 1524 marked the beginning of the Peasants’ War in the areas of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and France. The uprising involved an estimated 300,000 peasant rebels and resulted in the death of more than 100,000.