Emblemata evangelica ad XII signa codestica

This album comprises 13 original drawings made by the Flemish painter Hans Bol (1534-1593) for the 13 plates of the series Emblemata Evangelica ad XII Signa Codestica, engraved by Adriaen Collaert (1560-1618) and published by Jean Sadeler in Antwerp in 1585. An original print of the corresponding engraving is affixed to each facing page.

If this ensemble has survived through the ages without damage, it is without doubt because it has been preciously kept in an album. Dated 1584-1585, Bol’s works present the months of the year. They combine representations from the New Testament – numerous parables – and lay scenes which, together with the signs of the zodiac, illustrate the various months. Scenes of everyday life, such as working in the fields, are placed in the background, giving prominence to religious scenes. This was really innovative iconographic language for the period. Several parts of a story are sometimes simultaneously represented in a single composition.

The drawings, which have been particularly well preserved, were made with pen and brown ink and brown wash. One can also distinguish traces of a preliminary sketch in black chalk. This wash technique enabled the artist to subtly indicate the desired effect of light for the engraver. The pen strokes and wash were executed with great subtlety and well highlighted.
A worthy artistic heir to Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Hans Bol, who came from Mechelen, was a painter, draughtsman, miniaturist, engraver and print maker. His works were destined for the collectors’ art market and collectors’ cabinets. His talent was soon spotted by the Antwerp publisher Jérôme Cock, who commissioned him to make preparatory drawings for making prints, the great speciality of the port city of Antwerp. The Emblemata Evangelica series was one such commission. After moving to the Netherlands (to where he fled during the Counter Reformation that was rife in our regions), Bol continued to work with Cock.

The preparatory drawings for this series of engravings represent a truly exceptional ensemble that was hitherto unknown. Their quality and authenticity are indisputable and preparatory drawings such as these are rarely found in public collections in Belgium because they were often broken up or lost in part. The Foundation has entrusted this album to the Royal Library of Belgium, where it will be kept in the print department. There it will complete the impressive graphic art collection of 16th century publishers from the Southern Netherlands and become part of the Library’s body of research and promoted works.

Further information about the Heritage Fund (in French)

Type: 
Drawings and prints
Material / technique: 
Pen, brown ink, black chalk, on paper
Dimensions: 
Album: 337 x 280mm
Type of acquisition: 
Heritage Fund acquisition
Year of acquisition: 
2014
Depository institution: 
Royal Library of Belgium, Brussels