Thomas Primeau is the Director of Conservation and Paper Conservator at the Baltimore Museum of Art. He received an MA in Art History from the University of Michigan and an MA in Paper Conservation from the State University College at Buffalo. His published research includes an exploration of the history and technology of hand-colored Renaissance prints, the engraving techniques of Martin Schongauer and his followers and the printmaking methods of Henri Matisse. [September 2013]

Coloring Within the Lines: The Use of Stencil in Early Woodcuts

Fig. 1. Workshop of the Very Small Hours of Anne of Brittany, The Nativity (ca. 1490, France), stencil-colored woodcut, 23.1 x 16.4 cm in coffer (ca. 1490, France), wood, iron, leather, horsehair, and linen, 22 x 33 x 15 cm. Art Institute of Chicago, restricted gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Vance; the Amanda S. Johnson and Marion J. Livinston Fund, 2009.49.

Recently there has been a renewal of scholarly attention paid to coffrets à estampes, fascinating wood and metal boxes from the late 15th to early 16th centuries whose inner lids were usually decorated with colored devotional woodcuts. While historians are still trying to decipher what function these enigmatic containers served, they agree that the boxes appear to have been fabricated in Paris and that a majority of the prints can be attributed to the workshop of the Master of the Very Small Hours of Anne of Brittany, now identified as the painter Jean d’Ypres, who was active in France between 1490–1510 (Fig. 1). Read More