News report by Bartholomäus Käppeler about a giant snake found in the Boden Lake (1590).

Bartholomäus Käppeler was a late 16th-century, early 17th-century German engraver and woodprinter. In 1593, he made an engraving based on a real-life murder case, titled 'Der Mörder von Lungenetz' ("The Murder of Lungenetz", 1593). This work is an early example of a prototypical comic strip. Together with Hans Burgkmair the Elder, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Jeremias Gath, Hans Holbein the Elder, Hans Holbein the YoungerCaspar Krebs, Georg Kress, Hans Rogel the Elder, Hans Rogel the YoungerErhard Schön, Johann Schubert, Hans Schultes the ElderLukas Schultes and Elias Wellhöfer, Bartholomäus Käppeler is one of the earliest German prototypical comic artists who left us with a signature.

Life and work
Little is known about Bartholomäus Käppeler, other than he is believed to have flourished between 1577 and 1627 in what is now Germany, but then part of the Holy Roman Empire. Käppeler made several woodcuts based on recent events, a forerunner of today's newspapers. In the 16th, 17th and 18th century these so-called 'Geschichtsblätter' ("Pages about Events") were very popular. They portrayed battles, massacres, public executions, natural disasters and other atrocities. Visualizations of festive city visits by royals and noblemen, royal marriages and state funerals were equally beloved. Käppeler, for instance, visualized the conquest of the Swiss town Mühlhausen (1587), the French town Calais by the Duke of Austria (1596) and the failed Turkish siege on the abbey of Zysek, Croatia (1592). He additionally graphically reported a storm flood near Hohenlohe (1589), the mysterious death of an inn keeper in Strasbourg (1590) and the execution of fraudster George Hohenauer in Stuttgart (1597). He seemed to have a particular flair for sensational mysteries. Three of his engravings report about odd sky phenomena above the German city Augsburg, namely a comet (12 November 1577), aurora borealis (15 September 1580) and an utterly indescribable vision (8 March 1590). Others discuss an abnormally large herring (1587), a colossal grape bunch discovered in Marktdorf (1590) and a giant snake found in the Boden Lake (1590).

Käppeler was just one of several artists who made such drawings. Other creators include Johannes van den AveeleJeremias Gath, Frans Hogenberg, Romeyn de Hooghe, Caspar Krebs, Georg Kress, Der Prager Meister von 1609, Hans Rogel the Elder, Hans Rogel the YoungerErhard Schön, Johann Schubert, Hans Schultes the ElderLukas Schultes and Elias Wellhöfer. Like most art from that era, the historical accuracy of these graphic "news reports" should be taken with a grain of salt. No eyewitnesses were consulted and all information was based on descriptions from messengers, travelers or hearsay. Unavoidably, anecdotes were sensationalized and used for propaganda purposes. The printers couldn't print opinions that could get them in trouble with the authorities. Audiences wanted to be awed as well. As a result, huge public festivities were made more bombastic, and scenes of death and despair were heavily dramatized. The prints were distributed all over Europe. Once the events became old news, the drawings were bundled and compiled into collectable picture albums.

The Murder in Lungenetz
In 1593, Käppeler created 'Der Mörder von Lungenetz' ("The Murder of Lungenetz", 1593), a three-panel illustrated narrative of a real-life murder case in Lungenetz. The work is notable as a prototypical comic strip. The two images on the left show how a man stabs a couple to death in their bed and chops down another woman in hers. The right panel provides a panoramic shot of the criminal being carried to the scaffold. On top of the image he is bound to the breaking wheel, where his corpse is exhibited for everyone to see.

'Der Mörder von Lungenetz' (1593).

Bartholomäus Käppeler on

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