This is an exquisite little very early papercutting on vellum that I believe is a devotional—but since I can’t find a translation to the Old German inscription I’m not sure whether it is technically a devotional or should be called a papercutting. Devotionals were originally cut in convents in France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Holland in the 16th century to celebrate religious faith. They were made to commemorate Christening, Communion, mourning, weddings and love. The earliest devotionals generally honored a patron saint, often with a painted portrait of the saint as the central medallion. The devotional evolved into paper-cuttings or Scherenschnitte and, during the 19th century the delicacy of the complicated cutting of devotionals was emulated by commercially manufactured lace paper that was used for Valentines. With such a rich and early history, devotionals are treasured by collectors of paper-cuttings, Valentines and love tokens alike. These tiny little treasures were often tucked into a family bible to be discovered generations later in very good condition for such delicate little pieces.
If this tiny cutting’s inscription has any religious significance at all, it is technically correct to call it a devotional. If the inscription is purely secular, it might be called a paper-cutting although collectors of today would likely still classify such an early piece as a devotional. As you can see, this tiny wonder has survived in remarkable condition, with just a bit of soiling and staining and very, very few losses to the vellum. The colors are bright due to being enclosed in the dark, probably a bible. The paint, cutting and inscription are stronger and clearer than my photos. This is only the second I’ve ever had—the first still resides in my collection.
I’ve placed it on black acid-free paper with tiny bits of Japanese rice paper. It is housed in a marvelous dark brown and reddish ripple frame from the mid-19th century. I had no circa 1700 frames available and I think this one enhances the overall package greatly because they look smashing together! The size of the vellum is a mere 3 ½” x 2”. Framed size is 6 5/8” x 5 ¾”. The precious cutting is 1650-1750--hard to pin it down but it is extremely early.
Rosin, Nancy, “Papercuts – Scherenschnitte – Devotionals: Intimate Celebrations of Love Crated by Heart and Hand, First Cut, Vol. 26, No. 1, Winter 2011, 12-15.