Willem Swanenburg

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Willem Swanenburg
King Saul, after Abraham Bloemaert
Engraving on paper.
10 3/4 x 6 3/4 inches (273 x 171 mm)
Gift of William M. Voelkle.

Inscribed at upper right, "A. Bloemaert Invent. / W Swanenb. Sculpt et exc. / an.o 1611."; in lower margin, "Diu monitus surdã Samuelis temserat aure / Saulus, et in fuso sanguine laetus erat. / Sed tandem ut multã coepit pallescere culpa, / Vitae etiam coepit tunc fatur esse suae. / Quid faciat? famulo mortis sibi tela negante, / Ipse manu propriã triste peregit opus. / SAULUS REX. P.S. extempore. 75."

William M. Voelkle, New York.

This prints belongs to a series of penitent saints engraved and published by Willem van Swanenburg after designs by Abraham Bloemaert, who conceived of them as three contrasting, yet compositionally related pairs: Peter and Paul, Zachaeus and the Magdalen, and King Saul and Judas Iscariot. Below each figure is an inscription composed by C. Plempius and Petrus Scriverious, two renowned Latinist poets. To portray the theme of sinners as a group was a fairly unique inconographic development that conveyed a strong Counter-Reformatory message in its promotion of the sacrament of penance, which had been refuted by the Calvinists. The typically Mannerist proportions and contorted poses of Bloemaert's figures clearly informed Swanenburg's often serpentine handling of the engraved line. Each figure is presented monumentally and in a dramatic pose, and background vignettes relate to the subjects' individual narratives. Our set of prints appears to have been issued for the 1719 edition of Gerard de Lairesse's Principles of Drawing. (Andaleeb Banta)

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