Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Simon Frisius’ etching, “Hilly landscape with castle”


Simon Frisius (aka Simon Wynhoutsz Frisius; Simon de Vries) (c.1580–1628)
“Heuvellanschap met kasteel” (Hilly landscape with castle), 1613/14, after Matthijs Bril (c.1550–83), published by Hendrick Hondius I (1573–1650) in “Topographia Variarum Regionum” (Various topographical views) (1613/14). See this publication at the Rijksmuseum: http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.453679

Etching on fine wove paper trimmed at or within the image borderline.
Size: (sheet) 10.1 x 14.5 cm
Lettered below the image borderline: “M. bril invent. Hhondius excudebat”

New Hollstein Dutch 138-1(2) Remark: Part I; Hollstein 1-25 (after Matthijs Bril); New Hollstein (Dutch & Flemish) 136.I (Simon Frisius); Hollstein 64-91 (under Simon Frisius)

The Rijksmuseum offers the following description of this print:
“Heuvellandschap met links op de voorgrond een herder met kudde. Gezicht op een kasteel op een heuveltop, door brug verbonden met huizen links. Rechtsachter een rivier.” (Hill landscape with links to the foreground a shepherd with flock. View of a castle on a hilltop, with houses connected by bridge links. Right a river.)

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Landscape with a castle on a cliff in the centre, mountains in background, after Matthijs Bril. 1613/1614”
The curator of the BM advises that the publication “’Topographia Variarum Regionum’ consists of “a series of twenty-seven etchings by Frisius after Matthijs Bril (New Hollstein 123-150) of small landscapes, which was published in 1614 by Hendrick Hondius. One print after Joos van Lier has been added to the series. The prints are inlaid into double sheets and the series is bound in an album with a gold tooled vellum binding that seems to be seventeenth-century.” (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3051221&partId=1&searchText=1947,0319.7.&page=1)

Condition: richly inked and well-printed impression, trimmed at, or slightly within, the image borderline in near pristine condition.

I am selling this small but remarkable etching—“spectacular” in a word—for the total cost of AU$242 (currently US$178.49/EUR169.91/GBP147.33 at the time of posting this) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this seldom seen marvellous old-master print, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.


In my previous post about Simon Frisius I offered a personal response to his subjective view of landscape. What I did not mention is what Frisius is best known for: his copy manuals for student calligraphers. In these books (for example, “Characteres Latini ..” in Jan van de Velde’s “Spieghel der Schrijfkonste”, Rotterdam, 1605—interestingly, published by Jan van de Velde’s wife) Frisius cleverly executed plates with some of the most beautiful flourished script designed for students to copy. What makes these plates extra special for me is that Frisius was able to emulate the appearance of engraved lines using etching alone.

(Frisius’ propensity for emulating the effect of engraving is discussed by Clifford S Ackley [1981] in “Printmaking in the Age of Rembrandt” (see p. 48). Ackley points out that even the great Abraham Bosse (1604–76) who advocated the use of etching for calligraphy “singled out Frisius in his 1645 treatise as the first of the etchers whose work inspired him to pursue this approach” (ibid). To understand the choice to use etching rather than engraving for reproducing calligraphy, Arkley explains: “Etching was, of course, a more flexible and rapid medium for reproducing calligraphic writing’” (ibid). Note the following example of one of these plates held by at the British Museum may be incorrectly described as an engraving: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3431604&partId=1&people=103915&peoA=103915-2-60&page=1.)

My aim in drawing attention to Frisius’ high level of technical skills as a calligrapher and as a consummate etcher is to help to explain why his landscapes, such as this one, are so eye catching. Frisius KNEW how to create the illusion of spatial depth and he also had the command of his drawing skills to make a scene visually arresting and memorable.





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