Saturday, 24 February 2018

Lambert Suavius’ engraving, “St Matthias”, 1545-48


Lambert Suavius (aka Lambert Zutman; Zoetman Lambert; Lambert Le Doux) (c1510–1567)

“St Matthias”, 1545-48, from the series of 14 plates, “Christ, the Apostles and St Paul.”

The Curator of the British Museum offers the following insights regarding the series which this print features: “… from a series of fourteen plates showing Christ and the apostles and St Paul (Hollstein 9-22). Twelve of these plates are numbered 1–12; the plates with St Matthias and St Thomas are not.”

Engraving on heavy laid paper trimmed with narrow margins around the platemark.
Size: (sheet) 20 x 8.8 cm; (plate) 19.8 x 8.5 cm
State i (of i)  This impression is likely to be from an edition published in the late 1600s or early 1700s.

Hollstein Dutch 21 (Dieuwke de Hoop Scheffer & K.G. Boon [comp.] George S. Keyes [ed.] 1984, “Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts ca. 1450–1700: Louis Spirinx to M. Suys”, vol. 28, Blaricum, Van Gendt, p. 174, cat. no. 21)

The Rijksmuseum offers the following description of this print: “The apostle Mattias standing by a column in a room. He supports a long staff with both hands.”
The Philadelphia Museum of Art offers a description of this print: http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/19984.html?mulR=254821300|21
See another other examples from the same series at RE Lewis and Daughter: http://www.relewis.com/SuaviusJohn.html

Condition: crisp and well-printed museum-quality impression in excellent condition (i.e. there are no tears, holes, folds, abrasions, stains, foxing or signs of handling) trimmed close to the plate mark.

I am selling this marvellous engraving that (to my eye) follows in the tradition of Andrea Mantegna (1431–1506)—in terms low-horizon monumentality and referencing the antique—and certainly shows significant borrowings from Giulio Campagnola (1482–1515)—viz. the use of stippling to render light and shade—for AU$194 (currently US$152.24/EUR123.80/GBP108.97 at the time of this listing). Postage for this print is extra and will be the actual/true cost of shipping.

If you are interested in purchasing this marvellously strong image with its curious amalgam of low and high viewpoints, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.


Before I did my research on this print, I must confess that I had only heard of St Matthias but I certainly did not know that he was one of the twelve apostles. After as quick Google, I soon understood why: he was nominated by a lots cast by Christ’s disciples (not in person by Christ) to be a replacement for Judas. In short he was simply a substitute without “showing himself worthy of becoming an apostle” (Clement of Alexandria in “Stromateis” vi.13).

There are several things that I find fascinating with this print. The first is that Suavius has portrayed the saint’s feet from the worm’s eye viewpoint in which I can see a little below the saint’s toes AND the artist has cleverly made a transition so that I also look more or less directly at the saint’s shoulder. The second thing that I find very interesting is that Suavius has employed the stippling technique (i.e. the use of dots and tiny dashes to render light and shade) in engraving that had only been used for the first time a few years earlier by Giulio Campagnola. The third and final point that I wish to draw attention to is the setting for the saint in a classical ruin. Although this may seem to be a minor feature to ponder, if one considers that Suavius’ brother-in-law and teacher was Lambert Lombard and Lombard adhered to the view that “it was better to imitate a single statue than all the work of the moderns” (see Stephen J Campbell & Jeremie Koering [eds.] 2016, “Andrea Mantegna: Making Art”,  John Wiley & Sons, p. 158)—here we are talking about Renaissance era “moderns”—then the antique setting and the artist’s approach to treating the saint as if he were a monumental sculpture has some meaningful resonance. 






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