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Friday 2 December 2016

Moyses van Uyttenbroeck’s etching of the ancient Roman tower of Torre delle Milizie and two obelisks

Moyses van Uyttenbroeck (aka Moyses van Wtenbrouck) (1590/1600–c.1647)
“Landscape with a Tower and Two Obelisks” (La tour et les deux obélisques), c.1610–47, from the series “Six Landscapes” (Bartsch) and “Arcadian Landscapes” (BM), published by his son, Matheus van Uyttenbroeck (fl.1647–c.1660)

Etching and engraving on fine laid paper trimmed on, or within, the platemark and lined on a conservator’s support sheet.
Size: (sheet) 12.7 x 19 cm
Inscribed within the image at lower centre: "Mo. V. VYtenbrouck f. Ma. V. VYtenbrouck ex." (Note: the lettering is almost illegible and so I am relying on the British Museum for the line of text).
State ii (of ii?)

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Landscape with the Torre delle Milizie and two obelisks; three shepherds with cattle and goats in left foreground; a traveller leading a mule carrying another figure along a path at far left; from a series of six plates.” (
Hollstein 50.II (F W H Hollstein, 1949 “Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts c.1450-1700”, Amsterdam); Bartsch V.113.53 (Adam Bartsch, 1803 “Le Peintre graveur”, 21 vols, Vienna); Bartsch 6.53 (113) (Otto Naumann, 1980 “The Illustrated Bartsch”, vol. 6, New York, p.107).

Condition: slightly silvery impression, trimmed on, or within, the platemark lined onto a conservator’s support sheet. The upper left corner has a small loss and shows restoration, otherwise in very good condition (i.e. beyond the issue with the upper-left corner there are no stains, tears, holes, abrasions, folds or foxing).

I am selling this exceptionally rare etching for AU$218 (currently US$161.74/EUR151.49/GBP128.05 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. If you are interested in purchasing this fine etching from a contemporary artist at the time of Rembrandt, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

This print is a mystery to me. I found it tucked away at the bottom of a storage box when I was searching for a missing print by Aegidius Sadeler. I never found the missing Sadeler, but the quality of this marvellous small print shone brightly and I decided to see what I could find out about it.

Sadly, the inscribed artist’s name was virtually illegible. Consequently, my attention was focused solely on artistic style and choice of subject.

Mindful that if someone were to tell me that they had determined the name of an artist based solely on the attributes of style and subject exhibited in a print, I would definitely want to hear how they resolved and verified their attribution. As a consequence of how I like hearing about such matters, this discussion is intended to satisfy like-minded folk.

(Please stop reading if you are someone who dislikes generalities as the following account is full of them … be warned!)

My first consideration is the fine quality of the rendering (i.e. the size of the marks). I decided that the etching was unlikely to be Italian, because Italians tend to use emphatic lines with much larger gaps between them. It could be German, such as by the wondrous Adam Elsheimer, because the line work is very controlled, but this is unlikely because the strokes are delicate rather than forceful. Indeed, the choice of artist seemed to narrow and point to either a Dutch or French artist. I discounted the French because the shape of the plate was not especially “French”—this print is a stretched oblong and, to my mind, the French lean more towards squarish rectangles. The oblong shape made me consider the possibility of the Dutch artist, Jan van de Velde, but the treatment of the trees and clouds did not match my perception of his work. To my eyes, the stylistic treatment of the trees seemed more like Cles Cornelisz Moeyaert’s, but the trees lacked the clear tonal contrasts of a Moeyaert.

The second consideration was the clincher for me: an Italian scene rendered as a Dutchman would portray it. An artist whose prints fit this description is Moyses van Uyttenbroeck. Interestingly, I remember reading that the reason Uyttenbroeck chose to portray Italian landscapes—even though he was Dutch—was that he found that the Dutch people at that time had a love for romantic Arcadian scenes. The thing about Uyttenboreck is that he was fixated on idealised images filled with figures dressed in classical gowns with farm animals everywhere. My concern with this image, however, is that the portrayed figures are too small. My memory of Uyttenbroeck is that he liked his figures big so that their activities—usually mythological exploits—could be seen easily. 

After mulling over my tentative attribution, I consulted the catalogue raisonné on Uyttenbroeck (“The Illustrated Bartsch”, vol. 6) and found the print on page 107. I was right!  

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