Ludwig Dening

 

DENIG, LUDWIG
(1755–1830)
would have been lost to history but for an untitled book of spiritual texts and sermons in German that he produced in 1784.Richly illustrated in watercolor by its creator, the 200-page manuscript volume contains images related principally to the New Testament accounts of the Passion of Jesus Christ and the martyrdom of the apostles. Denig also included symbolic floral and other allegorical images in the leather-bound work, as well as the music for twenty hymns. Each page measures six and one-half by eight and one-half inches. In 1975 Esther Ipp Schwartz (1904–1988), a well-known collector, acquired the book and encouraged its study by Don Yoder, a distinguished folklorist and specialist in Pennsylvania German culture and American religious history. Yoder arrangedfor an annotated facsimile edition of the work to be published in 1990, with a biography of Denig and a translation into English of his texts, as
The Picture Bible of Ludwig Denig: A Pennsylvania German Emblem Book.
Denig was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He became a member of the Pennsylvania German community and its Reformed Church. He attended the church’scongregational school, served in the American Revolutionary War, and earned a living as a master shoemaker. Yoder demonstrates how Denig’s book, with its densemoralistic texts and dramatic illustrations of sacrifice and martyrdom, reflects the artist’s acceptance of the pietistic values then current among some PennsylvaniaGerman Protestants. Pietism stressed the experience of inner conversion and repentance, the practice of personal study of the Bible, and the need for Christian beliefsto be reflected in daily living.Denig was familiar with Christian devotional prints and illustrated Bibles, the sources of many of his drawings. He created his manuscript volume during the earlyflowering of the fraktur tradition in southeastern Pennsylvania. In contrast to most frakturs, Denig’s drawings are dominated by figural imagery and direct renderingsfrom the biblical narrative, yet the influence of the fraktur tradition on his work cannot be disregarded. Denig’s figures are occasionally rendered awkwardly, but if anything the lack of refinement brings greater intensity and visual strength to the drawings. In 1787 Denig moved to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and establishedhimself there as an apothecary. It was in Chambersburg that he died. Denig’s remarkable book contains a register of his family in which births, marriages, and deathsare recorded. The last entry, that of his own death, was added to the volume by one of his children.
See also
Fraktur; German American Folk Art;

Pennsylvania German Folk Art
.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Bishop, Robert.
Folk Painters of America.
New York, 1979.Yoder, Don.
The Picture Bible of Ludwig Denig: A Pennsylvania German Emblem Book.
New York, 1990