Meulebeke 1548 - Amsterdam 1606
Christ in the Wine Press (Title Plate)
MB 1716 (PK)
The Passion series (inv. nos MB 1716-1728)
Together with his fellow townsman Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) Karel van Mander was the foremost supplier of drawn designs for prints. Unfortunately, most of these drawings have been lost. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, however, owns a unique, practically complete series of preliminary drawings1 for the set of engravings2 depicting the Passion of Christ.
The drawings were executed in a technique characteristic of Van Mander, but also popular with his older contemporary Stradanus.3 Each pen drawing was modeled with washes in different shades of blue and brown for the dark areas, creating highlights by leaving these parts untouched by the brush or by adding white bodycolour.4 The resulting rich chiaroscuro gives the drawings a painterly quality; it allows for a dark backdrop for the passion scenes and adds to the dramatic effect. Van Mander seems to have adopted this technique earlier on in his career when he was in Italy (1573-1577).5 The painterly shading technique had to be graphically translated into hatchings and cross-hatchings, a real challenge for the engraver, who was allowed a great deal of freedom also in working out details.6
To facilitate the 1:1 transfer of the image to the copper plate, the drawings were each carefully traced with a blunt needle. While drawing Van Mander took into account that the engraved depictions would become mirror images. The actual engraving was left to artists who specialized in this. Jacques de Gheyn II (1565-1629), who was also the publisher of the print series, accounted for four of them7; his gifted pupil Zacharias Dolendo (1561-1604) took care of the remaining ten. The museum owns two sets of the first edition, published in Leiden.8
The division of tasks has been inscribed at the bottom of each print. Van Mander is named as the draughtsman with the Latin abbreviations ‘inve.’, ‘inven.’ or ‘invent.’ (invenit = has invented/designed), De Gheyn and Dolendo as the engravers with ‘sc.’, ‘scu.’ or ‘sculp.’ (sculpsit = has engraved), and De Gheyn as the publisher with ‘exc.’ or ‘excu’ (excudit = has published). The print series itself is not dated. Based on the date 1596 written by Van Mander on two of the preliminary drawings, the print series is dated 1596-1598.
The set of design drawings includes one which was not engraved, The Foot Washing (inv. no. MB 1722), which for unknown reasons was left out of the series. Anyhow, it is not an essential scene and probably De Gheyn skipped it in order to limit the number. The preliminary drawings for prints 12 and 13 (ill. 1 and ill. 2) are missing. These must have got lost at some point, perhaps they were less refined in their execution and not considered worthwhile keeping.9 The others have always stayed together. After the engravings were finished the set of preliminary drawings has possibly been sold by the publisher who had ordered them from Van Mander and therefore owned them. What happened to them after that time we do not know. The set was eventually purchased for the museum at the Vis Blokhuyzen auction in Rotterdam in 1871, probably together with a set of the print series.
The three artists had worked together on a previous project, in 1595-1596 and just before the Passion series, depicting Eight Repentant Sinners from the Old and New Testament.10 The prints of that series are larger (circa 200 x 145 mm) than those of the Passion series and Van Mander’s designs for it have not survived. The cooperation between Van Mander and Jacques de Gheyn II goes further back. Around 1589 Van Mander delivered the designs for a print series The Twelve Sons of Jacob, engraved by De Gheyn and first published by Jan Pitten,11 which has similar dimensions as the Passion series. In 1591-1592 the two again worked together on the print series Christ, The Twelve Apostles and St Paul with the Creed,12 of which the sheets measure approximately 300 x 200 mm, and the designs have neither survived.
Christ in the Wine Press
This drawing is the design for the title print of the Passion series, in which consecutive scenes of the sufferings of Christ have been depicted (ill. 1). The print was engraved by Jacques de Gheyn, who was also the publisher of the series.13
It is a symmetrical composition with a sculptural cartouche, in the scrollwork style of that time (end of the sixteenth century). The cartouche is the ornamental frame of a standing oval field with a representation of Christ in the winepress. Above the cartouche there are two rectangular text fields, one large, the other small. Next to it, to the left and right, are two stone pedestals with putti on them, the one on the left holding a stick with a sponge and the other a lance, the instruments of the crucifixion. Behind the cartouche is a cloth attached to a rod, from which garlands hang down at both sides.In the corners above two putti are seated holding the instruments of the passion: the crown of thorns and the scourge staff. Christ is represented as victor with the cross leaning on his right shoulder. The drawing depicts the Old Testament description of the mystical winepress, a metaphor for the passion: as if he were a bunch of grapes, Christ is crushed. The blood from the wound in his breast flows in the collection vat of the press, streaming out from a gutter in the front and caught in a chalice. This symbolism is connected to the sacrament of the Eucharist or the Lord’s supper in which wine is equal to the blood of Christ.
Van Mander himself wrote the relevant quotes from the Bible, with correct references, in the places where they should be engraved. At the top is part of the Latin Bible quote saying (in translation) “I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me” (Isaiah 63:3).14 At lower left Van Mander wrote part of the Latin Bible text “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Hebrews 12:2). Below right is part of another Bible quote, saying “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering” (Isaiah 53:4). Only the small text shield with the initials INRI (abbreviation of Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum; Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews), held by the putto at the lower left, was written in mirror view; the mirroring of the Bible quotes he seems to have left to the engraver. Eventually, in the print De Gheyn omitted the two lower Bible quotes on the pedestals and added a large cartouche with an appropriate four-line poem in Latin by Hugo de Groot.
1 Valentiner 1930, pp. 86-88, nos. Z.3-15; Stampfle 1991, p. 14, under no. 21; Miedema 1995, pp. 119-123, nos. D6-D18, ill; New Hollstein 1999a, appendix 2, nos. 7-19, ill; Plomp 2001, p. 203. A similar series, in another format and less finished than the onein Rottterdam, was in the sale of Gerard Leembruggen in Rotterdam on 5 March 1866, where the museum’s director A.J. Lamme bought many drawings for the museum, but did not show interest in this one. Lot 388: ‘Sujets de l’histoire Sainte. Neuf dessins. A l’encre de Chine, rehaussé de blanc’ (sold for fl. 2,75 to an unknown buyer called Jonkers, as annotated in the museum’s copy of the sale catalogue). This is probably the series of The life of St John the Baptist, now in Weimar’s Schlossmuseum (Valentiner 1930, nos. 16-24).
2 New Hollstein 1999a, nos. 56-69; New Hollstein 2000a, part I, no. 36-49.
3 See for instance the Ulysses series, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. nos. MB 2007/T 1, MB 1777, MB 1772 and MB 332.
4 His younger contemporaries Cornelis de Jode and Hendrick Hondius occasionally also used this technique, see Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. nos. CdeJode 1 and MB 1949/T 1.
5 For instance the Flight into Egypt, dated 1576, in Dresden, Kupferstich-Kabinett, inv. no. C 1969-1; Dittrich 1997, no. 36, col.ill, Ketelsen/Hahn 2011, pp. 79, 88, 98-99, 389.
6 Leesberg in New Hollstein 1999a, p. lxxxv.
7 The title page and the prints numbered 9, 11 and 13.
8 Inv. nos. BdH 22406-22419 (acquired in 1937) and inv. nos. OB 1856-1869 (acquired with the H.M Montauban van Swijndrecht Bequest in 1929). The prints are described in New Hollstein 1999a, nos. 7-19 and New Hollstein 2012, nos. 17-28.
9 The last three drawings are the only engraved scenes that have not been signed with the artist’s monogram. They have a more free handling of the pen and brush, the drawing of The Road to Calvary showing the underdrawing in black chalk.
10 Eight engravings, New Hollstein 1999a, pp. 18-21, nos. 21-28; New Hollstein 2000a, part I, pp. 46-55, nos. 15-22.
11 Twelve engravings, New Hollstein 1999a, pp. 6-10, nos. 5-16; New Hollstein 2000a, part I, pp. 30-43, nos. 2-13.
12 Fourteen engravings, New Hollstein 1999a, pp. 70-85, nos. 72-85; New Hollstein 2000a, part I, pp. 120-136, nos. 72-85.
13 New Hollstein 1999a, no. 56; New Hollstein 2000a, no. 36; impressions in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. no. BdH 22406 and OB 1856.
14 For quotes from the Bible the New International Version was used at http://www.biblegateway.com.