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A print portrays several mountain-side tombs, with figures walking along the mountain trail.

A print portrays a mountain trail leading to several tombs in the side of the mountain. Figures walk along the trail, some entering the tomb, some moving a corpse to a tomb for burial, and others in mourning. This image is framed with decorative elements including a side profile of a skeleton on the left and the right. At the top of the frame, a wrapped corpse lay horizontal.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Johann Rudolph Holzhalb, Swiss (Zurich 1730 - 1805 Zurich)
The Tombs of the Jews
Other Titles
Original Language Title: Die Gräber der Juden
Work Type
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Etching and engraving with letterpress and woodcut
Etching and engraving
Image: 28.5 × 19 cm (11 1/4 × 7 1/2 in.)
Plate: 29.6 × 20.3 cm (11 5/8 × 8 in.)
Folded Sheet: 39.6 × 25.4 cm (15 9/16 × 10 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: lower left, in plate: Jo. Rod. Holzhalb. del: Sculp: et execud: Zürich. 1755
  • inscription: below image, in plate: Selig sind die Todse [?] die im [illeg] Sterben: / Sie ruben von ihren Arbeiten! [illeg.] . [illeg] . 14: v. 13
  • inscription: There is a long text in German on the inside page; it translates to:
    The Tombs of the Jews …

    … were different, depending on the type of person. The poor people had to be content with a burial in the ground; and one had for this purpose common burials [burial grounds] everywhere, similar to our cemeteries. The rich people, on the other hand, built themselves respectable tombs which they usually had carved into rocks; this is where their corpses, wrapped in cloth, were laid to rest. Those tomb caves or tomb vaults were located outside of the cities; since the corpses were not clean, they were never buried within the cities (exceptions in the case of royal families; 1. Kings 2.10 and 11.43). Those tomb vaults were often, depending on the wealth of the people, fairly large so that whole families could be laid to rest there. This is from where the saying derives: to drive to one’s fathers, to be gathered to one’s people. Sometimes rich people had memorial columns erected on their tombs.

    We do not want to report more since our intention is not to digress. The bible-loving reader might refer to the following places in the bible and he will find explanations there for the accompanying print.


Recorded Ownership History
[Galerie Bassenge, Berlin, sold May 26, 2011, lot 5307], sold; to [C. G. Boerner, New York], sold; to Harvard Art Museums, 2016.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Acquisition Fund for Prints
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Folded sheet, with print on front, letterpress text and woodcut inside. An attached paper flap on the front reveals the inside of the burial chamber.

Publication History

  • Druckgraphik: Miscellaneen und Trouvaillen, 15.-19. Jahrhundert, auct. cat. (Berlin, May 26, 2011), pp. 152-153, lot 5307, repr. p. 152
  • Edouard Kopp, Elizabeth M. Rudy, and Kristel Smentek, ed., Dare to Know: Prints and Drawings in the Age of Enlightenment, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2022), pp. 33-37, repr. pp. 34-35 as figs. 4-6

Exhibition History

Verification Level

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