Crispijn van de Passe I
Arnemuiden 1564-Utrecht 1637
Emblematic device: An Allegory of Faith, circa 1590

PROVENANCE: Possibly Roscoe and Reitlinger collection (according to a pencil inscription on the verso).

Private collection, New York.

Pen and brown ink and blue wash, indented for transfer, pen and brown ink circular framing lines

Circular 88 mm. (Diameter 3 1/2 in.)



Gabriel Rollenhagen, Nucleus Emblematum Selectissimorum, Cologne, 1613, plate 69, in reverse.

Crispijn van de Passe the elder worked as an engraver, draughtsman, print publisher and painter. He produced many prints, often in the form of series, which he engraved from his own or other painters designs and most of which he published himself. He started his career in Antwerp where he registered as a master of the Guild in 1584-5. At this time he was in contact with Maerten de Vos, many of his designs he engraved. By 1589, after the fall of Antwerp, de Passe fled for religious reasons to Aachen, where he was also active as a publisher. In Cologne he married Madeleine de Bock and belonged to the Mennonite community, as a result of which he had to leave in 1611. Later in Utrecht he joined the church officially. By 1612 the de Passe family established their publishing house in Utrecht and a year later Crispijn became a citizen of the city. He dedicated his prints to painters, scholars and governors of the city of Utrecht as he had previously in Aachen and Cologne. His work was popular throughout Europe and covered a range of subjects from book illustrations to biblical and mythological scenes, historical events, portraits and allegories.

Our drawing, a recent re-discovery, is for plate 69 for Gabriel Rollenhagens second volume of 100 engravings of emblems Nucleus Emblematum Selectissimorum [Figure 1]. The epigrams are mainly in Latin, but sometimes in Italian or Greek. This collection of emblems consists of engravings of high inventive and decorative charm. Religious and moral truths [are] expressed in complicated imagery. Rollenhagen [is] the portical inventor whose ideas De Passe [delineates] in delicate circular engravings1. All emblems are accompanied by distiches of four-line verses in Latin. Gabriel Rollenhagen (Magdeburg 1583-1619 Magdeburg) is the son of Georg Rollenhagen, and was a lawyer in the service of the cathedral chapter of Magdeburg. De Passe is likely to have met both the father and the son while he was living in Cologne between 1595-1612.

Many of the drawings for this series are now in the collection of the Dukes of Devonshire and were originally bought by John Talman in the Netherlands, probably on his return from Italy in the 1690s, and are now bound into a single book, in the early 20th century, for the 8th Duke. According to Michael Jaff the drawings bought by Talman was made up of material left in the van de Passe family workshop. Lord Burlington, or an agent acting on his behalf, acquired these drawings at Talmans sale in 1728, and a leaf is inscribed by Richard, 3rd Earl Burlington noting his ownership on May 5 1728. There remain only 61 drawings of the original 77 counted by John Talman, 24 are emblematic in circular form, like the present drawing. One can only speculate as to whether our drawing came from this Talman provenance2.

The whereabouts of the 15 other emblematic drawings, as noted by John Talman in the Devonshire album, are not all known. However numbers 2 and 39 are recorded are in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, and 3 are in the Leiden Print Room3.

1.Otto Benesch, Artistic and intellectual trends from Rubens to Daumier as shown in book illustration, 1943, p. 28.

2.Michael Jaff, The Devonshire Collection of Northern European Drawings, Volume II, Flemish Artists, Allemandi, 2002, numbers 1208-1268.

3.Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Inv. D I 86 and inv. D I 87, Leiden Print Room: Inv. Nos Welcker 1142, 1143 and 1141. I would like to thank Dr Elen for his assistance in identifying the former 2 drawings and their location.