Pen and brown ink, brown wash, pen and brown ink framing lines
80 x 119 mm. (3 1/8 x 4 in.)
The Four Bacchic Figures Dancing, is based on Franois Perrier’s (1590-1650) engraving of the Borghese Vase, printed in Icones et segmenta illustrium e marmore tabularum quae Romae adhuc exstant, Rome, 1645, plate 11. The vase is now in the Muse du Louvre, though in the seventeenth century was of course in the Borghese collection.
Our drawing must be based on the French edition, since it is in the same direction as the print, while the Dutch edition was reversed. Perrier’s influential book included 100 etchings of the finest reliefs in Rome. Jan de Bisschop, called Joannes Episcopius since his name was rendered in Latin, was by profession a lawyer, but also an accomplished amateur draughtsman and etcher. However he did set up a drawing academy in 1660. His clear skill at drawing has made him keenly sought after over the centuries. Indeed Benjamin West wrote to Sir Joshua Reynolds (the letter is pasted on the inside of the Victoria and Albert album)
Bisschop was a good draughtsman and an excellent etcher, so that he knew perfectly well how to execute that work he had undertaken and every artist should support and protect his volume of drawings as an inestimable treasure. De Bisschop studied law in Leiden, though he set up a practise in The Hague in 1652. He was part of an intellectual elite, which included Constantijn Huygens the younger (1628-1697), whose style is very close to that of De Bisschop, especially the landscapes. Van Gelder1 has divided the drawings by De Bisschop into five distinct groups: drawings after antique sculpture (the present drawing is in this category); landscapes; after paintings by contemporary and Northern masters; after early Italian masters, and some original portrait and genre scenes. No paintings by De Bisschop are known. Ruth Rubinstein and Elizabeth McGrath identified the antique source of the Bacchic Figures Dancing.
1. J.G. Van Gelder, Jan de Bisschop 1628-1671, Oud Holland, 86, 1971, no. 4, pp. 207-8.