The Sick Lion Summons the Animals to His Bedside from the Sick Lion blockbook, 2nd edition

Anonymous, German, Ulm or Basel, 15th century German

Not on view

The Sick Lion block book, consisting of nine woodcuts with text banderoles and almost three hundred lines of manuscript text, was created in the region of Basel in the 1450s. The fable of the sick lion formed the core of numerous literary works of the medieval period. The specific text of the block book, however, seems to have originated in that region, and its woodcut images have no known visual precedent. Two examples of the first edition exist; the Metropolitan's sheet is the only known surviving sheet from a later edition, copied probably less than a decade after the original.
In the story, all the animals except the fox come to visit the sick lion. The wolf tells the lion that the fox does not care about his well-being. The fox gets his revenge by telling the lion that in traveling far and wide seeking a cure, he has learned that in order to get well the lion must skin a wolf alive and wrap himself in the warm skin. Although the fox seems to be the hero of the story, readers are also admonished that only unquestioning trust in their master--the lion, and by extension, the Church--will safeguard them from the evils of both the wolves and foxes of this world.

The Sick Lion Summons the Animals to His Bedside from the Sick Lion blockbook, 2nd edition, Anonymous, German, Ulm or Basel, 15th century, Woodcut with hand-coloring

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.