Gallery of prints for sale

Tuesday 3 October 2017

Johann Theodor de Bry’s engraving (in collaboration with his brother, Johann Israel de Bry), “Musca Reteta Perit Crabro Violentior Exit”, 1592

Johann Theodor de Bry (aka Jan Dirk de Bry) (1561–1623) in collaboration with his brother, Johann Israel de Bry (1565–1609)

“Musca Reteta Perit Crabro Violentior Exit”, 1592, Plate 19 in the series of 48 emblem prints with an additional 69 engraved plates published in “Emblemata nobilitati et vulgo scitu digna …” (first edition, 1592; republished in 1596).

Note: the BM has this engraving listed with the de Bry brothers’ other book of emblem prints, “Emblemata Saecularia” (Emblems of life and manners), but my research shows that it is in fact published in “Emblemata nobilitati …” (see page 182 in the copy of this book held by the Getty research institute:

Engraving on fine laid paper printed from two separate plates (viz. a centre plate and a “framing” plate) trimmed along the outer borderline.
Size: (sheet) 13.2 x 11.2 cm
Lettered "MUSCA RETETA PERIT CRABRO VIOLENTIOR EXIT". Numbered in lower right corner "19".

Hollstein 240–87 (F W H Hollstein 1949, “Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts c.1450-1700”, Amsterdam)
The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Emblem; a spider sits in the centre of its web surrounded by its fly prey; illustration from the brothers de Bry's 'Emblemata Saecularia' (Frankfurt). 1592” (

Condition: crisp and near faultless impression (undoubtedly a lifetime impression) trimmed to the image borderline. The sheet is in superb/pristine condition for its age. Be aware that this is a somewhat rare composite engraving created from two printing plates with a central plate “framed” by an outer plate.

I am selling this exceptionally rare, museum quality, graphically strong and symbolically rich engraving from the late 1500s, for a total cost of AU$214 (currently US$167.20/EUR142.27/GBP126.25 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested in purchasing this superb emblem print—arguably one of the best—please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

Although the British Museum may be correct in their description of the insects caught in this spider’s web as flies (see the BM’s copy of this engraving no. 1875,0410.170) I suspect that they are more likely bees. The reason that I wish to propose this—mindful that no one really knows the true meaning of this print as far as I can determine—is that the de Bry brothers’ printing firm, founded by their father, had affiliations with the Palatine movement and had fled from Heidelberg before Don Ambrosio Spinola invaded. The family re-established their firm in Frankfurt am Main still carrying their alliance to the Palatine movement. Based my very feeble and very likely flawed understanding of history in the late 1500s and relying heavily on Wikipaedia’s account of the Palatinate campaign (see the emblem of the spider very likely symbolises Spinola and the bees—a symbol of the Palatines—are the meals waiting for his consumption.
(For a marvellous account of the de Bry publishers, see: FA Yates 2013, “Rosicrucian Enlightenment”, Routledge, chapter 6.)

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