Rare drawings fill a gap in Belgium

23rd of October 2014

The Heritage Fund has purchased a series of 13 preparatory drawings by Hans Bol, as well as the Adrien Collaert prints made from them. The series will enrich the Royal Library’s collection.

These days it is practically impossible to find such a high quality series of preparatory drawings on the art market, nor one that has been so well conserved. If this ensemble has been able to survive through the ages, it is no doubt because it has been stored in an album. Dated 1584-1585, Bol’s 13 drawings combine representations from the New Testament with secular scenes and signs of the zodiac to illustrate the months of the year. They exhibit a completely new iconographic language for the period.

As worthy artistic heir to Pieter Breughel the Elder, Hans Bol, who came from Mechelen, was a painter, artist, miniaturist, engraver and printmaker in the second half of the 16th century. His work was quickly spotted by the Antwerp publisher Jérôme Cock, who commissioned Bol to create preparatory drawings from which to make prints, one of the great specialities of Antwerp. The series Emblemata Evangelica is one such commission.

In Belgian public collections, preparatory drawings such as these are rare. The Foundation has entrusted this album to the Royal Library, where it will be kept in the Prints and Drawings Department. It will complete the Library’s impressive 16th century collection of works from publishers in the Southern Netherlands and it will form part of the institution’s policy of research and promotion. The Royal Library plans to organise an exhibition featuring the album in autumn 2015. The drawings will also be part of the Agora project, which has as its aim to put the Library’s old masters’ drawings online.