Saturday, 21 July 2018

Crispijn de Passe the Elder’s engraving (with etching), “Transitus”, 1599


Crispijn de Passe the Elder (aka Crispin Van de Passe; Crispin De Passe) (1564–1637) or from his work-shop

“Transitus” (transl. crossing), 1599, from the series of 30 plates, “Hortus Voluptatum” (transl. garden).

Engraving with etching on fine laid paper with small margins, backed with a support sheet.
Size: (sheet) 13.2 x 18 cm; (plate) 10.4 x 15.9 cm; (image borderline) 9.2 x 15.7 cm

Inscribed on plate within the image borderline: (lower centre) “Transitus”
Lettered on plate below the image borderline in two lines of Latin text in two collumns: “In tenebris mundi dominatur vana voluptas, Hac tramen inconstans agitatio voluit ad ignem: / Fraus, cum stultitia, quodque cupido iubet. Transit et in fumum gloria, munde, tua.” (trans. " In the dark world's dominant empty pleasure on this train is unstable, shaking wanted to fire / Fraud, folly, and taking action. Glory passes into smoke harmonizes with yours.") (Note that my deciphering of the lettering may be flawed.)

Franken 1881 1337 (nr.6.) (Daniel Franken 1881, “L'oeuvre gravé des van de Passe”, Paris); Hollstein 851 (nr.6.) (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:
“Transitus; woman going to throw a globe on a wheel-barrow into a hole, from which flames are sprouting; a jester with another globe; with four lines below; plate to a collection of 33 plates by Crispijn de Passe I or from his work-shop.1599”

Condition: crisp, well-inked and well-printed impression (undoubtedly a lifetime impression based on the strength of the printed lines and the still visible guidelines for the lettered text) backed with a support sheet of archival (millennium quality) washi paper. The sheet is in excellent condition (i.e. there are no tears, holes, folds, stains or foxing, but there is minor age toning and light handling marks).

I am selling this small and rare 17th century emblem print showing a woman and jester depositing globes of power into the flames as an allegory of the caducity of power for AU$220 in total (currently US$163.40/EUR139.26/GBP124.51 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested in purchasing this fascinating engraving from 1599 addressing the transitory nature of power, 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


To be very frank, I have not found any handy resources in my research of this print to speak confidently about the “true” allegorical meaning of what is signified. Nevertheless, I have no problem inventing what I believe is likely to be the expressed meaning of the image … but please be mindful that I may be VERY wrong.

The globe which the lady with the wheelbarrow is taking to what the British Museum advises is “a hole, from which flames are sprouting” (1873,0614.106) and the globe that the jester is rolling are traditional emblems of power. In the context of the portrayed landscape—everyday reality—I believe that the globes are cast as signifiers of worldly/temporal power. My reading of the destiny for these globes of everyday power is simply as a vanitas allegory: the futility of the pursuit of power.







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