Sunday, 21 January 2018

Jan Martsen’s etching “Three cavalrymen engaged in close combat”, c1640


Jan Martsen (aka Jan Martsz. de Jonghe; Jan Marsse; Jan Maertsen; Jan de Jonge Martszen) (1609–1647/8)

“Three cavalrymen engaged in close combat” (BM descriptive title [see S.5000), c1640 (note: the Rijksmuseum propose dates between 1619 and 1649 and the British Museum propose dates between 1630 and 1650), plate 2 from the series, “Cavalry Battles”, most likely published by Claes Jansz. Visscher (1587–1652).


Etching on fine laid paper trimmed close to the image borderline with a collector’s stamp verso.
Size: (sheet) 11.7 x 17.8 cm
Lettered in lower right corner "2 / M.D.Jonge.fe"
State ii (of ii?) See a copy of the first and second states at the Rijksmuseum: (unlettered first state) http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.collect.150215  and (lettered second state) http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.collect.150216

Hollstein 2-2 (3) (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:
“Three cavalrymen engaged in close combat; on the ground lies a dead soldier and a discarded pistol.”

Condition: crisp and strong impression trimmed at the image borderline in excellent condition (i.e. there are no tears, holes, folds, abrasions, stains or foxing).

I am selling this small and very rare print exemplifying the spirit for dramatic battle scenes by Dutch printmakers in the early 1600s for AU$218 (currently US$174.5/EUR142.72/GBP125.94 at the time of posting this listing). Postage for this print is extra and will be the actual/true cost.

If you are interested in purchasing this fascinating etching offering an insight into early combat on horseback, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold


One of the key principles of composition is to use an odd number of subjects. The reason for this principle in art is the same as the principle of choosing an odd number of people for a committee: in committee meetings odd numbers of committee members allow for clear resolutions to be passed and, in the case of art, odd numbers of subjects allow for a single centre of interest.

In this battle scene, for example, the composition is structured around the three figures on horseback at the centre of the scene with the figure wearing a cuirass in the middle of the three figures catching the viewer’s eye as the centre-of-interest. Interestingly, this middle figure holds the composition and the action of the scene together in a literal way. After all he is about to defend himself with his rapier against the attack of the figure on the right while the figure on the left thrusts a pistol into his chest.

Regarding the compositional arrangement of the middle figure as the centre-of-interest, note how the abandoned pistol shown at the lower right corner “points” towards the centre figure, as do the rear legs of the horse on the left, the tail of the centre figure’s horse and the reins held by the figure on the right. Going further, note also how the angle of the raised sword held by the distant figure on the far left continues the line of the pistol thrust into the centre figure’s chest. 







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