Thursday, 21 June 2018

Hieronymus Cock’s etching, “Landscape with Mercury and Argus”, 1558


Hieronymus Cock (aka Jérome Cock) (c1510–1570)

“Landscape with Mercury and Argus”, 1558, after the drawing by his brother, Matthijs Cock (aka Matthys Cock; Matthijs Wellens de Cock; Matthijs Kock; Matthias Cock) (c1510/5–1548), from the series of 14 etchings, “Landscapes with Biblical and Mythological Scenes”, published in 1558 by Hieronymus Cock, Antwerp.

Note that the BM advises that there are 14 plates in the series, the Rijksmuseum cites 13 plates and Van Grieken (et al) (2013) in “Hieronymus Cock: The Renaissance in Print” mentions only 12 plates (p. 344). This discrepancy in the number of plates may result from whether the title page (frontispiece) published in 1558 is included in the series.

Note also that the drawing by Hieronymus’ elder brother, Matthijs, which this etching is reputed to be based depicted a “Landscape with the Flight into Egypt” that was once in the Lugt Collection but its location is now unknown.

Etching on fine laid paper with watermark, "Arms", trimmed along the image borderline.
Size: (sheet) 22.4 x 32.1 cm
Inscribed on plate within the image borderline: (lower left with partial losses to the text) "[Mer]curius [Argum] interficit"; (lower left of centre) "Cock fecit 1558"
Lifetime impression of the only state

Hollstein Dutch 14 (F W H Hollstein 1949, “Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts c.1450-1700”, Amsterdam); Riggs 1977 43 (Timothy Allan Riggs 1977, “Hieronymus Cock, Printmaker and Publisher”, New York, Garland Press, pp. 273–9, cat. no. 43)

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Landscape with Mercury on a road and holding the head of Argus in his left hand, Argus' body lying on the ground, fields at left, a city along a bay and mountains in the background. 1558 Etching”

See also the description of this print by the Rijksmuseum:
(transl.) “Hilly landscape with a harbor town in the distance. Right before Mercury, who cut off the [head of] giant Argus. Mercury holds his head in his hand. In the clouds Juno rides in her carriage drawn by two peacocks. Picture from a series of 13 landscapes with biblical and mythological scenes.”

Condition: an exceptionally rare lifetime impression that is richly inked and well-printed. The sheet is trimmed along the borderline with restored paper losses, closed tears and other small repairs, backed with thin conservator’s paper.

I am selling this lifetime impression of the utmost rarity by one of the most important 16th century printmakers for AU$650 (currently US$478.12/EUR415.05/GBP364.72 at the time of posting this print) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world (but not, of course, any import duties/taxes imposed by some countries).

If you are interested in purchasing this simply magnificent Renaissance etching from the start of the Occidental landscape tradition, 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


At the time that this etching was executed, artists leaned towards two different approaches to portraying the landscape.

The first approach—as employed here—is to portray a largely imagined landscape from a great height as if it were an exemplary extraction of the comos with allegorical narratives being played out. This first approach is known by the German world, “Weltlandschaft”, or “World Landscape” (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_landscape), initiated by Joachim Patinir (c1480–1524). According to Dominique Allart (2013) in the “must have” exhibition catalogue, “Hieronymus Cock: The Renaissance in Print”, this approach to landscape was “… to stimulate the imagination, sometimes at the expense of all visual plausibility” (p. 343).

The second approach, which also plays a role in this etching, but to a lesser extent, is driven by the idea of a “Lady Landscape”—a not so politically correct mindset in which the landscape’s natural forces are perceived as femininely evil with a facade of beauty (see Udo Becker 2000, “The Continuum Encyclopedia of Symbols”, Continuum, p. 169). Artists who approach the landscape with this mindset tend to employ focal points in the landscape where the veil of external appearance is stripped bare, such as natural arch shown here in the distant mountain allowing the eye to explore the mountain’s subterranean depths. Although I may be very wrong in my reading of this particular landscape, I see Cock’s approach to rendering the superficial details of this vast panorama—e.g. the trees, roads, streams, cattle and even the mythological figure of Mercury holding the head of the now headless Argus (see Ovid, Metamorphoses I 723)—as being underpinned by natural forces that are bulging the superficial details like muscles flexing beneath them.









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