'Mord bei Neuburg an der Donau' (1589).

Caspar Krebs was a late 16th/early 17th-century German painter and engraver. He is notable for the engravings 'Mord bei Neuburg an der Donau' ("Murder near Neuberg at the Donau", 1589) and 'Mord in Ildorf' ("Murder in Ildorf", 1595), which depict several events in one illustration, making him an early prototypical comic artist. Together with Hans Burgkmair the Elder, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Jeremias Gath, Hans Holbein the Elder,  Hans Holbein the YoungerBartholomäus Käppeler, Georg Kress, Hans Rogel the Elder, Hans Rogel the Younger, Erhard Schön, Johann Schubert, Hans Schultes the ElderLukas Schultes and Elias Wellhöfer, he is one of the earliest German prototypical comic artists who left us with a signature.

Life and work
Nothing is known about the life of Caspar Krebs, except that he flourished in the town Augsburg in the Holy Roman Empire (nowadays Germany) in the late 16th century and early 17th century. He made several wood engravings depicting current events of the day. Between the 16th and 18th century, such woodcut engravings, named 'Geschichtsblätter' ("Pages about Events"), were a forerunner of today's newspapers. They portrayed battles, massacres, public executions, natural disasters and other atrocities. Krebs was just one of many artists who made such drawings. Other creators include Johannes van den AveeleJeremias Gath, Frans Hogenberg, Romeyn de Hooghe, Bartholomäus Käppeler, Georg Kress, Der Prager Meister von 1609, Hans Rogel the Elder, Hans Rogel the Younger, Erhard 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.

Murder in Neuburg an der Donau
In 1589, Krebs printed a graphic news report about a murder in Neuburg an der Donau: 'Mord bei Neuberg an der Donau'. On 21 April 1589, two men robbed a woman in the local forest. They beat her to death and hung her corpse in a tree. The murderers were arrested, convicted and executed. They were tortured on the wheel and hung at the gallows. All these events are visualized in one panel, with a rhyming text describing the murder and its aftermath. Krebs shows one criminal beating the woman with a stick on the foreground. These two are drawn far larger than all other events, to serve as an eye-catcher. In the right upper corner, he and his accomplice put a rope around the battered corpse and hang her in the left lower corner. The execution of the criminals is shown in the upper center of the illustration. For a modern-day audience, the story is visualized in a very confusing manner. The sequences are crammed together and don't follow a logical reading order.

Murder in Illdorf
In 1595, Krebs produced another notable report about a real-life murder, this time in the town Illdorf. In January of that year, a man named Michael Ruff murdered another man and then his own wife. Afterwards, he ran away and fell into a river. His crime was discovered and local villagers lynched him. Much like his earlier Neuberg murder print, Krebs visualizes all events in one panel, with a description in rhyme printed underneath the images. But the events are a bit easier to follow. The story starts off in the upper right corner, where Ruff and his wife are cooking food. In the upper center, Ruff strangles a man with his wife standing nearby. He kills her afterwards, pushing her to the ground, as depicted in the center of the panel. To the center right, Ruff looks back at his crimes in the previous sequences, horrified over what he has done. The narrative continues in the lower left corner, where Ruff chases a goose, tries to capture it, but falls into the river instead. In the right lower corner, villagers lynch him.

'Mord in Ildorf' (1595).

Caspar Krebs at zeno.org

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