Sunday, 18 February 2018

Hieronymus Wierix’s engraving, “The Desolation of Holy Sites”, 1583

Hieronymus Wierix (aka Hieronymus Wierx; Jerome Wierix) (1553–1619)

“The Desolation of Holy Sites” (Desolatio Sacrorum Locorum), 1583 (attribution by the Rijksmuseum), after Maarten de Vos (1532–1603), plate four from the series of six plates, “The Sorrows of the World”, published by Jan Sadeler I (aka Johannes Sadeler; Johann Sadeler) (1550 - 1600) in Amsterdam.
Regarding the series of which this print is a part, the curator of the British Museum advises: “The majority of the plates are by Hieronymus Wierix. Two of the plates are numbered 1 and there is confusion over the title-page.” (see BM no. 1937,0915.103). To see the other engravings in the series, see the impressions held by the BM:,0915.103

The curator of the BM also advises that there is a drawing related to this print in the Witt Collection, Courtauld Institute, London (see BM no. 1937,0915.106).
Engraving on laid paper trimmed close to the image borderline on the sides and bottom and along the borderline at the top. The sheet has been re-margined with a support sheet.

Size: (re-margined support sheet) 37.9 x 41.9 cm; (sheet) 20.3 x 27.3 cm
Inscribed on plate within the image borderline at lower edge: (left)” M. de Vos inuetor”; (centre) “4”; (right of centre) “IH. W. fecit.”; (right) “Sadleri excud.”
Fragments of lettered text below image borderline which would originally have shown two columns of Latin text in three lines "Et civitatem ... pseudoprophete" from "Daniel 9." and "Luc.21. Mat.24."

Alvin 1866 1252 (L Alvin 1886, “Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre des trois frères Jan, Jérome et Antoine Wierix”, Brussels); Hollstein 1278 (Maarten de Vos); Mauquoy-Hendrickx 1979 1510 (Marie Mauquoy-Hendrickx 1978, “Les Estampes des Wierix ... catalogue raisonné”, vol. II., Brussels, p. 275, 1510 [cat. page 205]); Hollstein 1831 (Wierix)

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“The desolation of Holy sites; a priest with glasses and a hood, gesturing towards the background with various burning churches and temples and towards the sky with the sun and the moon; a family, with small children, fleeing in despair and soldiers herd captives; plate 4; … after Maarten de Vos.”

The Rijksmuseum offers the following description of the print:
“Men, women and children have gathered at the edge of the city. They have taken fragments from the devastated city. In the background the downfall of Jerusalem. The city is on fire and is plundered. In the margin Bible quotes from Dan. 9, Luc. 21 and Mat. 24 in Latin.” (

Condition: well-inked and crisp impression in very good condition apart from a small restored loss at the tip of the upper right corner, slight unevenness of age toning and minor signs of use. The sheet has been trimmed unevenly around the image borderline with loss of the lettered text below the image and has been re-margined with a support sheet.

I am selling this superb example of engraving by one of the most famous of Flemish engravers for AU$256 (currently US$202.88/EUR163.38/GBP144.63 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 strong engraving exemplifying the love of lively rhythms and chiaroscuro lighting  of the Mannerist period, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy. 

This print has been sold

I foolishly envisaged that I was going to offer a short summary of what this image signifies in terms of illustrating the Prophesy of Seventy Weeks, but I guess that James Alan Montgomery—professor of Old Testament and Semiticsis (Hebrew and Aramaic)—is correct in referring to the history of the prophecy's interpretation as a "dismal swamp" of critical exegesis (see Mindful that the task is not straight forward, I advise reading the descriptions of this print from the BM and the Rijksmuseum that I gave earlier and I will simply show the key verses for those who really know about such things:

“24 Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.

25 Know therefore and understand: from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat, but in a troubled time.

26 After the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing, and the troops of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.

27 He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease; and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates, until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator.”
(Daniel 9:24-27 [New Revised Standard Version])

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