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THE APOSTLES OF WIERIX, DE VOS, & FRANCKEN

WIERIX, Antonius II /DE VOS, Maarten / FRANCKEN, Ambrosius. The Apostles (with Christ and Saint Paul). Amsterdam, Claes Jansz. Visscher, c. 1600 (?).

[31 x 20 cm the sheets], 14 numbered engravings. In marbled wrappers, lightly worn, plates with wide margins, minor handsoiling, staining to verso of plate 8 with image unaffected, unobtrusive 4-mm. hole in plate 12, otherwise excellent within the platemarks.

$2,850

Rare suite of prints depicting the twelve Apostles, designed by Ambrosius Francken (1544-1618) and engraved by Antonius Wierix, including two additional images of Christ and Paul by Maarten de Vos (nos. 1 and 14) which at one time occupied a single copper plate. The series gives an engraving to each of Christ’s Apostles (Peter, Andrew, John the Evangelist, etc.), with each man standing to nearly the full height of the frame and holding his individual symbolic attribute, usually the instrument of his martyrdom (a chalice of poison, club, saw, axe). In the backgrounds are (sometimes graphic) scenes of the martyrdoms in progress, all set in deep, evocative landscapes with architectural and natural features reminiscent of Renaissance Italy (walled medieval hill towns) ancient Rome (aqueducts) and Jerusalem (the ubiquitous round buildings meant to evoke the Temple of Solomon, in fact broad interpretations of the Dome of the Rock).

At the foot of each Apostle is a Latin caption describing the above saint. Interestingly, these captions are headed by phrases in all capitals taken from the Apostles’ Creed (“I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth …”), which can be read continually and in its entirety by moving from the first Apostle (Peter, plate 2) through the last (Matthew, plate 13). This progressive reading “strip” adds a traditional devotional function to images which otherwise occupy themselves with exploring the latest trends in late Renaissance figuration (the twisting figure of Jude, for example, recalls the Mannerist figura serpentinata at the time being explored by the young Gianlorenzo Bernini).

Hollstein lists the Apostles series as first published by Gerhard de Jode, c. 1585, and mentions some copies of the de Jode which carry two additional plates, those of Christ and Paul designed by Maarten de Vos. These engravings of Christ and Paul (present here), as can be seen by the continuity of their landscapes, originally occupied a single plate, which was apparently cut in two to bracket the Apostles series. The present copy, carrying the address of Claes Jansz. Visscher, represents the fourth state of the Christ and Paul; all Apostles are in the second and final state. An intact series is rare in any state or edition.


* (Christ and Paul): Alvin, 295 bis, 684, 697; Maquoy-Hendrickx 585, 882, 895; Hollstein xliv (Maarten de Vos) 844a. (The Apostles): Hollstein LXIV (The Wierix Family) 1141-1152; Maquoy-Hendrickx 882-895.

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