A ride to Heaven or to Hell? A new Dutch broadsheet in the Baillieu Library Print Collection

A bizarre wagon surmounted by a seven-headed beast makes its way across the centre of a tumultuous image. The grotesque central motif of this 1621 broadsheet must have lured the reader to look at its bizarre details and to read the text below, or to listen to someone else read it aloud. Viewers of the time would immediately have associated this scene with the seven-headed beast of the Apocalypse in the New Testament Book of Revelation, and have understood that this was a work of political and religious propaganda.

As the title tells us in a sly piece of satire, this is a Roman (i.e. Catholic) version of a “ride to Heaven”. It is a satirical title because the passengers will all, in fact, find themselves delivered into the doorway to Hell overseen by the monstrous figure of Lucifer. The text below purports to record a three-way discussion outside a print shop, offering a commentary on many of the figures in the scene. A key with letters at the end of the text offers further help in decoding each satirical allusion. The broadsheet was produced in the context of bitter battles between Protestants and Catholics in Europe, and in particular Protestant Dutch animosity to Spanish Catholics during the intermittent Dutch Revolt, which took on new vigour in 1621. More

Image: The Roman Ride to Heaven (Romsche hemel vaert) published by Anthoni van Salingen [detail], 1621. Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne. Purchased, 2018