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Monday 27 June 2016

Maarten van Heemskerck's engraving from "“Acta Apostolorum”

Maarten van Heemskerck (aka. Maarten van Veen; Martin Heemskerk; Martinus Heemskerck) (1498–1574), from the series “Acta Apostolorum” (Acts of the Apostles)”, published in Antwerp by Philips Galle (1537–1612).
“St Peter healing raising Tabitha at Joppa, after Heemskerk”, 1575.
Engraving on fine laid paper
Size: (sheet) 22.7 x 29.2 cm; (plate) 21.3 x 27.3 cm.

Inscribed within the image (lower centre) 'Martinus Heemskerck Inventor” and numbered (lower right) “18”; (below the image borderline) four lines of Latin with the source shown (lower right) “Ac. Cap. 9.” New Hollstein (Dutch & Flemish) 205.II (Philips Galle); New Hollstein (Dutch & Flemish) 410.II (Maarten van Heemskerck)

Condition: rich, well-inked impression in good condition with small margins. There are minor signs of soiling, otherwise the sheet is in remarkably good condition for its age

This print has been sold

Early biblical illustrations, such as this one, invariably portray several scenes from the relevant verses rather than focusing on a single scene. In this engraving designed by one of the most famous artists of the 16th century, Maarten van Heemskerck, the image is broken into three distinct cells containing different narratives ultimately leading to Saint Peter healing—resurrecting in truth—Tabitha. (I have proposed the specific text in the first post about this print.) To my eyes, this treatment of the multi-narratives in this illustration has all the elements of a theatrical stage production’s set design, in the sense of using missing walls to reveal the action within.

Beyond the management of the small narrative, what I find fascinating is the way that Heemskerck portrays the age of the building. For example, note how the columns and pedestals on the far left are portrayed in a state of deterioration. For me, they almost look like some masonry-eating rats had a good gnaw at them.

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