• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7644

    Old Master Prints

    2 December 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 5

    Cornelis Anthonisz. Theunissen (circa 1505 - after 1553)

    The Fall of the Tower of Babel (Passavant 2; Holl. 1)

    Price Realised  

    Cornelis Anthonisz. Theunissen (circa 1505 - after 1553)
    The Fall of the Tower of Babel (Passavant 2; Holl. 1)
    etching, 1547, without watermark, a very good impression of this extremely rare print, trimmed to or just into the platemark, a few small stains at centre below, and other minor areas of surface soiling, a small backed thin spot at lower left, paper tape along the upper sheet edge verso, generally in good condition
    S. 320 x 376 mm.


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    The Dutch printmaker, painter and cartographer Cornelis Theunissen was the dominant figure in the creation of Northern Netherlandish portrait woodcuts, which were popularised by the Renaissance cult of personality and a growing sensitivity towards the propagandistic possibilities of prints. He was also involved in the creation of some sixty single-sheet equestrian full-length and half-length portraits of various European kings, princes and noblemen, which generally recall images by Dürer, Jan Swart and Lucas Cranach the Elder. Another significant portion of Cornelis's oeuvre, unmatched by any of his predecessors, is the group of some twenty moralizing prints, notable for their inventive, often witty allegorical imagery. Recurring themes include the dangers of being a spendthrift, the habits of the dissolute (e.g. Wealth and Idleness, Flighty Youth, and the Misuse of Prosperity; Holl. 19, 21 & 27), man's proclivity for sinful behaviour (e.g. St. Aelwaer, The Demon of Drink; and Nabal, Ceres and Bacchus; Holl. 28 & 40) and the concurrent banishment of various virtues (e.g. Allegory with Concord, Peace and Love and Hate and Fear; Holl. 2 & 36). Stressing moderation in every aspect of life, such prints were largely aimed at the rapidly expanding urban middle class. Aside from the present work, he is recorded as the author of only one other etching (Holl. 2, a unique impression in Vienna) and a portrait of Charles V in etching and engraving (Holl. 3).

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    Saleroom Notice

    Please note that this print does have a Small Gothic P watermark (this variant not in Bricquet or Piccard).