Thursday, 8 December 2016

Jan Sadeler I’s engraving of “Saint Margaret of Antioch” after a lost drawing by Maarten de Vos

Jan Sadeler I (aka Johannes Sadeler; Johan Sadler) (1550–1600)
“Saint Margaret of Antioch”, c.1585 (my attribution of this date is based on the date inscribed on one of Maarten de Vos’ drawings for this set that is still extant, “Saint Anastasia”), after a lost drawing by Maarten de Vos (1532–1603), from a series of 16 female saints, “Speculum Pudicitae” (Hollstein 341-357). This print is both engraved and published by Jan Sadeler I.

Note: The Illustrated Bartsch (2001, vol. 70 [Part 2], pp. 121–430) offers a description of each of these plates and advises that “none of the plates is numbered except for St. Cecilia (7001.318), where the “8” has been effaced.” Bartsch also points out that “The “Virgin of Sorrows” [the first plate of the series] alone is signed ‘scalpsit’.” (p. 120). Interestingly, Bartsch proposes that the remainder of the plates, including this one, may not have been engraved by Jan Sadeler at all but rather by a “member of his family or by Jacob Kempeneer, his apprentice.” (ibid.)

Engraving on fine laid paper trimmed to the platemark and lined onto a conservator’s support sheet.
Size: (platemark) 17.7 x 13.1 cm
Lettered within the image borderline: (lower left corner) “Sadler excud.”; (lower right corner) “M. de Vos figura.”
Lettered below the image borderline in two lines: (lower centre) “Christum patri,  …/ … MARGARITA adit necem."
Lifetime impression of state i (of i).
Bartsch, 2001, vol. 70 [Part 2], p. 139, no. 7001.326; Hollstein, 1980, vol. 21, no. 355; Edquist, p. 158, no. 98a; Piccin, no. 33; Hollstein 1995–96, vol. 44, no. 960.

Condition: richly inked and well-printed museum-quality impression. This exceptionally rare print is trimmed to the platemark, lined onto a conservator’s support sheet. This is a superb print in near faultless condition.

I am selling this stunningly beautiful engraving of the utmost rarity for AU$314 (currently US$235.34/EUR217.85/GBP185.64 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this graphically arresting image of St Margaret/Margarita astride a dragon, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

Good compositions usually have three critical ingredients: visual dialogue, projection and allusion to subject material lying beyond what is portrayed.

Regarding the first essential ingredient—visual dialogue—here the focus is very clearly on St Margaret. More specifically, however, the centre-of-interest (i.e. where a viewer’s eyes finally rest) is her face in with its expression of spiritual transcendence. This expression on her face is underpinned by what is shown outside the window: the scene of her martyrdom. What is interesting to me is the many ways in which the artist establishes the link (i.e. visual dialogue) between her face and the scene of her death. One of these ways is the close proximity of her face to the view through the window. More interesting to me is the use of parallel angles that connect each key feature of the image together. What I mean by this is if I start with the angle of the sword shown on the right, this angle is repeated as a parallel with the angle of the crucifix that the saint holds. On closer examination the angle of the sword is the same as the angle of the cast shadows from the bars across the window and, importantly, the directional thrust of St Margret’s head. For me, this repetition of the angle of the sword effectively draws the key elements of the composition together so that they relate (i.e. “talk”) to each other to establish meaning.

The second essential ingredient—projection—is fundamental to ensuring that a viewer feels invited, perhaps even compelled, to contemplate an image. Here, the thrust forward of the saint’s knees creates an invitation to the viewer’s eyes to move up to her face—a bit like a welcome mat—and then move into the spatial depth of the scene. This notion of an invitation to look, arising from the simple device of pictorial projection, is so important to “hooking” a viewer’s interest and sustaining it.

Finally, the third key ingredient—allusion to subject material lying outside of the field of view—is what is often the “making” or “breaking” of a composition. A poor composition shows everything and leaves nothing to the imagination; a bit like an amateur drawing an apple and places it in the centre of the page so that there is no magic to give it a bigger context of why the apple is there or how long it is likely to stay there. In this image, the allusion to something other than what is shown is introduced by the half circle of light and partial representation of a cloud formation that the saint is spiritually drawn towards. If this very important element were to be erased—including the angle of light and cast shadows directly influenced by the “hidden” spirit world—this image would simply be an amalgam of the saint’s symbolic attributes.

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