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    Sale 7644

    Old Master Prints

    2 December 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 3

    After Pieter Bruegel the Elder (circa 1525-1569) by Pieter van der Heyden (circa 1530 - after 1569)

    The Stone Operation, or The Witch of Malleghem (Bast. 193; L. 157; Holl. 38)

    Price Realised  

    After Pieter Bruegel the Elder (circa 1525-1569) by Pieter van der Heyden (circa 1530 - after 1569)
    The Stone Operation, or The Witch of Malleghem (Bast. 193; L. 157; Holl. 38)
    engraving, 1559, with an indistinct armorial watermark, a very fine, rich impression of this rare print, Hollstein's third state (of five), printing with burr on the lower borderline and many wiping marks in the plate-margin, offsetting from a first state impression of The Alchemist (Bast. 197; L. 159; Holl. 40) after the same hand on the reverse, partially with a thread margin below, otherwise trimmed inside the platemark but retaining a fillet of blank paper outside the borderline, a few pale unobtrusive stains and some tiny rust marks, generally in very good condition
    S. 351 x 467 mm.


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    The traditional title of this print (which should not be confused with Maldegem in East Flanders) would have been understood to mean 'village of fools', mal being Dutch for 'foolish'. However, information from the inventory of the publisher's widow suggests the original title was De Keisnijder (lit. 'stonecutter'). This was the designation for a quacksalver, who would promise to cure the afflicted through spurious surgery - anyone who behaved strangely was said to have 'a stone in his head' (Marijnissen 1988 and Orenstein 2006 [cit.], Sellink, p. 125). Here Bruegel combines the popular genre of lampooning the quacksalver with a satirical dig at human folly in general. The illustration incorporates several proverbs that have a bearing on the subject, though some of the details have yet to be explained. At lower left an apothecary looks on glumly as potential customers consult his rival, and a woman - perhaps his wife - shows him the stone she has just had removed. The figure kneeling under the table is a witty reminder that we are all deluded in the end. With a joker up his sleeve to signify deceit, he points at the bowl from which the quacksalver takes the stones.

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