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This woodcut shows the 'breaking wheel' as it was used in Germany in the Middle Ages. The exact date is unknown, as is the creator, but it depicts the execution of Peter Stumpf in in Cologne in 1589. This form of punishment was most common during the middle ages and early modern age. Though in many regions of Germany, the breaking wheel was used even in the 19th century. The last known execution occurred in Prussia in 1841.
The woodcut relates the crime and the punishment of Peter Stumpf and includes a depiction of the punishment of his daughter and mistress.
Stumpf was accused of being a werewolf and in the top left hand corner of the woodcut we see a large wolf attacking a child. Above this scene a man with a sword is seen fighting off the wolf and in doing so, lops off the wolf’s left forepaw.
In the centre left of the illustration we are shown the first punishment of Stumpf, namely the tearing of his flesh with red hot pincers while he is bound to a wheel.
In the middle we see the executioner using the blunt side of an axe to break Stump’s arm and leg bones.
On the righthand side of the illustration the executioner beheads Stump.
In each of these three depictions we can see that Stump’s left hand is missing, presumably pointing to the fact that the werewolf had its left forepaw cut off.
After his beheading, Stump’s body is dragged away to be burnt. In the top left hand corner of the wood cut we see the fire where Stumpf’s daughter and mistress, each tied to a stake, are burnt alive with Stumpf’s headless body tied to a stake between them.
Also shown is a wheel, mounted on a pole, which carries Stumpf’s decapitated head together with a figure of a wolf.
The picture was published in 'Het Tilburgs Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis' (Tilburg History Magazine) in 2003.
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