Scene with a Bänkelsänger

Copperplate engraving: Bänkelsänger
Bänkelsänger. copperplate engraving with etching, presumably based on L. Knaus, circa 1860
Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Leipzig

Scene with a Bänkelsänger

A wandering digest of sensations, c. 1860

Listen up to my latest tale / All about a heinous act / A terrible punishment awaits the fiend / For his evil, that’s a fact / So let that be a lesson forsooth / For all of you – man, woman, child or youth.

Musical introduction to a Moritat (a moral tale about a murderous act) in Robert A. Stemmle: Herzeleid auf Leinwand, 1962

Here a Bänkelsänger points to pictures with a stick while performing. The oilcloth scrolls with arresting pictures were intended to attract a crowd. Ostentatiously dressed in a tricorn, tailcoat and spectacles, the singer underscores his authority vis-à-vis his rural audience. His wife will have just declaimed the story. Trained monkeys draw additional attention to the performance. The Bänkelsänger took their material from newspapers, pamphlets, religious booklets and travel stories; they lived as travellers off of the sales of the booklets.

The pictured scene is set in Seelowitz in Mähren. The picture is a proof, before the graphic with title and signature was used as a prize in the newspaper Biene.