Part of a broadsheet – an early form of newspaper – offered for sale in Cologne in 1570, this striking print shows Reformist zeal in action. It depicts the demolition of a church in Antwerp during an outbreak of iconoclasm in the city in 1566. The scene might be described as organised chaos, as the Reformers work harmoniously and methodically together in order to violently destroy the fabric of the church.
As a Protestant, Hogenberg – the author of the print – would probably have been sympathetic to the Reformers’ aims. Nonetheless, the print hints at an inconsistency: in representing the destruction of the images, Hogenberg must also represent those images – creating a new image in the process. In a way, this echoes the strange logic of iconoclasm itself, which implicitly acknowledged the power of visual art precisely in the act of attempting to annihilate it.