Unknown Italian Artist, Saint Nicolas of Myra

Artist | Unknown Italian Artist  
Title | Saint Nicolas of Myra (San Nicola di Myra detto San Nicola di Bari
Date | 1470s 
Medium | Woodcut, hand-coloured in red, sand, green, olive, and tan, on blue paper 
Dimensions | 293 x 212 mm
Institution | National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 
Credit line | Print Purchase Fund (Mr and Mrs J. Watson Webb), 1979 
Theme | The Celestial Realm 
Museum number | 1979.63.1

In the fifteenth century, woodcut printing became the most efficient way to mass-produce images, and thus made them more accessible. Whether those images were for playing cards or, as in this case, devotional images, woodblock prints were less expensive to produce than hand-drawn images. To increase the appeal of such images, colour was added. For example, the hand-colouring of this devotional image would have distinguished the print, making it somewhat of a collector’s item. Adding colour to such artworks made the images more decorative, more naturalistic, and more personal. This print was hand-brushed, rather than coloured with stencils. Depicting St Nicholas of Myra, a patron saint of children, as well as sailors, this piece would with all probability have been a devotional image for personal use in a domestic setting.