16 More
19 More

The Creation and Early History of Man in twenty scenes

The Creation and Early History of Man in twenty scenes
signed ‘Johan Wiricx inve’ (with some variations)
pen and brown ink on vellum
3 5/8 x 4 7/8 in. (9.4 x 12.2 cm) each
with Horatio Rodd (active 1798-1858), London (his catalogue, 1849 or 1850, no. 1440).
probably Sir Thomas Jeaffreson, Dullingham Hall and Denston Hall, Suffolk; Charles Boardman and son, Suffolk, 2 December 1987, lot 186.
with Richard Feigen & Co., New York (see Van de Velde’s publication cited below).
C. Van de Velde, Jan Wierix. The Creation and the Early History of Man, 1607-1608, London and New York, 1990.
K. Bellinger and H. Weinhold, Jan Wierix, 1549 - Antwerp - 1620. Nine Drawings from the Creation and the Early History of Man, cat., Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel, Munich, 1993, p. 5.
Master Drawings from the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 2000, p. 172, under no. 70 (entry by S. Thomas).
European Master Drawings Unveiled. Van der Goes, Michelangelo, Van Goyen, Fragonard, and Other Masters from Belgian Collections, exhib. cat., Rotterdam, Kunsthal, 2002, p. 48, under no. 18 (entry by C. Kruyfhooft).
Hollstein’s Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, LIX, The Wierix Family. Part I, Rotterdam, 2003, p. 5, under nos. 1-21 (compiled by Z. van Ruyven-Zeman, with M. Leesberg).
Z. van Ruyven-Zeman, ‘“Stuckxken met de penne”: Drawings by the Engraver Johannes Wierix’, Master Drawings, XLII, no. 3, Autumn 2004, p. 241.
Drawings in Dialogue. Old Master through Modern. The Harry B. and Bessie K. Braude Memorial Collection, exhib. cat., Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, 2006, p. 43, under no. 18 (entry by L. Markey).
N. Strasser, Dessins des écoles du Nord du XVe au XVIIIe siècle. Collection Jean Bonna, Geneva, 2013, p. 64, under no. 20.

Brought to you by

Giada Damen, Ph.D.
Giada Damen, Ph.D. Specialist

Lot Essay

Together with his younger brothers Hieronymus and Antonius, Johannes Wierix produced an enormous body of over two thousand engravings, most religious in subject-matter, many made for the book publisher Christophe Plantin and his successor Jan Moretus. Exquisitely executed, these prints and illustrations enjoyed great popularity and established the brothers’ name as masters in the miniature format. In parallel with these printmaking activities, they also created a substantial number of drawings, also on a small scale and in a pen technique very much akin to that of their engravings. In contrast to the brothers’ meticulous style, which must have been especially time-consuming and requiring a great deal of concentration and discipline, are reports about the unruliness of their lives, which according to Plantin was largely spent drinking in the inns of Antwerp, where Hieronymus accidentally once even killed a woman (Van de Velde, op. cit., pp. XVIII-XIX).

Over two hundred drawings by Johannes are known – most, if not all, in pen on vellum (Van Ruyven-Zeman, op. cit., 2004). Their status as independent works of art is evident from mentions in several 17th Century inventories of important collections such as that of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, in which drawings by him are listed as framed and glazed (Van Ruyven-Zeman, op. cit., 2004, pp. 237-239). Among his favourite subjects was the Creation and subsequent chapters of the Book of Genesis, which Wierix treated in no fewer than four series, in addition to a print series (for the latter, see Van Ruyven-Zeman, op. cit., 2003, nos. 1-21, ill.). Close to these prints are the compositions of what is likely to be the earliest drawn series, complete with oval framing lines and part of the Collection Edmond de Rothschild in the Musée du Louvre (inv. 626 DR-646 DR; see Van Ruyven-Zeman, op. cit., p. 239). At the British Museum is a nearly complete series of nineteen drawings, of which two are dated 1606 (inv. 1848,0212.87-1848,0212.105; see A.E. Popham, Catalogue of Drawings by Dutch and Flemish Artists Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, V, London, 1932, pp. 194-195, nos. 1-19, pl. LXXVI). It was probably made just after another series, of which six sheets are at the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin (inv. KdZ 13599-13604; see E. Bock and J. Rosenberg, Die niederländischen Meister. Beschreibendes Verzeichnis sämtlicher Zeichnungen, Berlin, 1930, I, p. 59); and of which thirteen further sheets belonged to Adalbert von Lanna (sold H.G. Gutekunst, Stuttgart, 6-11 May 1910, lot 596). Nine of the latter were offered in 1993 by Kunsthandel Katrin Bellinger, and at least two of these entered public collections, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. 1996.49) and the Cleveland Museum of Art (inv. 1994.16; see Bellinger and Weinhold, op. cit., nos. V, VII, ill.; S. Thomas in Master Drawings from the Cleveland Museum of Art, exh. cat. Cleveland Museum of Art, and New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library, 2000-2001, no. 70, ill.).

The compositions of Wierix’s various treatments are closely related, although he made sure to introduce smaller and more important changes in every scene. As noted by Popham (op. cit., p. 195; see also Van de Velde, op. cit., passim), Wierix also sought inspiration in engravings after Maerten de Vos (1532-1603), illustrating scenes from the Creation (Hollstein’s Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, 1450-1700, XLIV, Rotterdam, 1995, nos. 1-10, 11-18, XLV, ill.) to the Early History of Man (ibidem, XLIV, nos. 19-24, 25-36, XLV, ill.). A series dated 1583 by Johannes Sadeler after De Vos in particular is similar to some of the drawings (ibidem, nos. 25-36, ill.). Like this set of engravings, Wierix’s drawn series of the Creation probably opened with title pages, at least one of which is still known (Bellinger and Weinhold, op. cit., no. I, ill.). (This appears to be confirmed for the set presented here – the most extensive still kept together – by the numbers 2 to 21 on the drawings’ verso.) Wierix’s predilection for the episodes from Genesis is easily explained by the opportunities these scenes afforded for showing off his skills as a draughtsman on a miniature scale, especially in the depiction of plants and animals. However, he also does full justice to the first scenes, representing God against the almost abstract background of heaven.

1. God creating light
2. God separating water and sky
3. God creating the plants and trees
4. God creating the stars
5. God creating fishes and birds
6. The creation of Adam and Eve
7. God addressing Adam and Eve, 1607
8. The Temptation of Adam
9. Adam and Eve hiding from God
10. The Expulsion from Paradise
11. Adam building a house
12. Adam tilling the Earth
13. The Sacrifice of Cain and Abel
14. Tubalcain in his forge
15. God speaking to Noah
16. Noah and his family boarding the Ark, 1608
17. The Deluge
18. Disembarcation from the Ark
19. Noah’s Sacrifice
20. The Tower of Babel

More from Old Master & British Drawings

View All
View All