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Friday 13 March 2020

Crispijn de Passe I’s engraving, “Cain kills Abel”, c.1616

Crispijn de Passe I (aka Crispin van de Passe) (1564–1637)

“Cain kills Abel”, c.1616, plate XI (11) from the series, “Liber Genesis”, featuring 60 engraved illustrations (including the title plate) to Wilhelm Salsmann’s (fl.1607–29)  and S Albani’s, “Liber Genesis: aereis formis a Crispin Passaeo expressus versebusque tam Latinis quam Germanicis ornatus …”, first published by apud Joh. Janssonium (aka Joannem Janssonium?) in 1616 in Arnhem (Germany) and published again in 1619 by apud Iacobum A Biesen bibliopolam in Kleve (Germany).

The book featuring this engraving is available for online viewing or downloading free-of-charge from

Engraving on laid paper trimmed with narrow margins around the platemark and stamped verso with the collection mark (Lugt 1209) of Comte C. W. de Renesse-Breidbach (aka Clément Wenceslas François Charles Cunegonde Constant Népomucène count de Renesse Breidbach).
Size: (sheet) 8.3 x 12.9 cm; (image borderline) 7.1 x 12.6 cm.

Lettered on plate below the image borderline in two lines of Latin: (my apologies if my reading of the text is flawed) "Constituunt summo fratres holocausta Tonanti, […] Grata sed altisonu fuerit quod victima Abelis,/ Terrae primitias; hic fruges alter at agnum; […] Innocui maculat fratris se sanguine Cain.” (Constitute the top of the burnt-offerings, brethren, the Thunderer himself, but the loud to him that it is pleasing to the victim of Abel, in the Land of the first-fruits; This yields at one another; It corrupts the innocent blood brother to bear.)

Lifetime impression before the Latin text is replaced with Dutch text in the early 1700s.

Franken 1342 (Daniel Franken 1975, “L'oeuvre gravé des Van de Passe”, vol. 19, Amsterdam, Scripta artis monographia, pp. 259–61, cat. no. 1342); Hollstein Dutch 855 (Karel Gerard Boon & Jan Verbeek 1964, “Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts ca. 1450–1700: Van Ostade–De Passe”, vol. 15, Amsterdam, Menno Hertzberger en Co, pp. 289–91, cat. no. 855).

The Rijksmuseum has a later impression of this print with Dutch text and showing evidence of wear to the printing plate, published by Isaac Greve in 1700–50 in Amsterdam. The Rijksmuseum offers the following description of the scene depicted:
(transl.) “Cain is about to kill Abel with a donkey jawbone. On the right in the background two sacrificial altars: Abel's sacrifice is approved by God (the smoke rises), Cain's sacrifice is rejected (the smoke sinks down)”

Condition: richly inked, strong impression trimmed with a narrow margin around the platemark. The sheet is in excellent condition with age-toning commensurate with a lifetime impression from 1616/19. There is a an important collector’s ink stamp (Lugt 1209) verso with notations by previous collectors, otherwise the sheet is in excellent.

I am selling this small jewel of an engraving glowing with strong contrast, for AU$270 (currently US$169.90/EUR151.70/GBP134.75 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 beautiful engraving featuing exceptionally fine linework, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

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