A man buried up to his waist holds his hands up above his head: a man and a woman stand on either side watching him in distress. Woodcut, 17--.
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About this work
The subject of the woodcut as published is Jasper Cunningham of Aberdeen, who tries to seduce his sister while they are walking in a garden. She replies that such an act of adultery and incest is against the will of God. Jasper tells her that there is no God and no Devil, and no afterlife: these are just "devised fables to keep poor souls in fear". God then delivers His judgment on Jasper by making fire rise up around him, leading to his death in agony, from which he could not be rescued, which is supposed to be the subject of the present woodcut. However, the present woodcut does not show fire: it suggests that the man in the centre is falling through ice or being sucked into quicksand. The man on the left clutches at a stake apparently to stop himself from sinking also. It may be that the publishers of the Jasper Cunningham ballad reused a woodcut that had originally been intended to show a different subject The impression catalogued was housed with woodcuts of witchcraft and therefore assumed to show the "sink or float" method of seeking out witches. However it is not necessarily associated with witchcraft
1 print : woodcut
Not found in: John Ashton, Chapbooks of the eighteenth century, Welwyn Garden City 1969
Wellcome Library no. 33275i