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Thursday 8 June 2017

Johannes Wierix’s engraving, “Christ before Pilate”, 1571

Johannes Wierix (aka Jan Wierix) (1539–1620)
“Christ before Pilate”, 1571, book illustration from “Humanae Salutis Monumenta” (Antwerp), after the design by Pieter van der Borcht (c.1535–1608)

Note that I have listed a print from Hieronymus Wierix (Johannes’ brother), “Christ before Caiaphas”, also from “Passion of Christ” series of illustrations in the same publication (“Humanae Salutis Monumenta”) as this print. To be honest I do not understand why this print is attributed by the BM to Johannes rather than to Hieronymus as the plate is inscribed with the “H” of Hieronymus’ initials … but I have chosen to believe the BM’s determination.

Engraving on fine laid paper with text (recto and verso).
Size: (leaf) 15.7 x 9.8 cm; (plate) 11.5 x 7.4 cm
Signed on plate with initials: “P.B.” and “I.H.W''

Alvin 1866 1626 (L Alvin 1886, “Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre des trois frères Jan, Jérome et Antoine Wierix”, Brussels); Mauquoy-Hendrickx 1979 2205 (Marie Mauquoy-Hendrickx 1978, “Les Estampes des Wierix ... catalogue raisonné”, 4 vols., Brussels, Bibliotheque Royale Albert Ier); Hollstein 3.32.I.(33) (Wierix; Book Illustrations) (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: “Christ before Pilate; Christ seen standing to right, with his hands tied; soldiers seen pushing him before Pilate; Pilate standing by a temple's threshold, to left, wearing a turban …” (

See also a copy of this print and its description at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco: (Note that the museum has incorrectly attributed this print to Hieronymus Wierix (Johannes’ brother).

Condition: rich and crisp impression with margins (varying from 1.1–2.4 cm) in excellent condition (i.e. there are no stains, foxing, tears, holes, folds or abrasions and age toning is minimal).

I am selling this small treasure from the Renaissance period for AU$218 (currently US$164.35/EUR145.95/GBP126.81 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this example of engraving of the highest order, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

Presuming that the British Museum is correct in its attribution of this print to Johannes rather than Hieronymus (despite the “H” in the inscribed initials on the plate) than this opens the tantalising prospect of finding differences in the stylistic traits of both brothers.

From a personal standpoint, my eye is first struck by the difference in the way that both brothers use light and shade. In the case of Hieronymus, he leans towards the use theatrical lighting as seen exemplified in the engraving, “The Flagellation” (see With this very dramatic type of lighting—what is termed “chiaroscuro”—Hieronymus draws attention to the key subjects portrayed. By contrast, Johannes’ use of light in this print is more evenly spread. In fact, the light is so evenly distributed over the portrayed figures that my eyes are not assured what they should be focusing upon.

This visual confusion is also driven by the arrangement of the figures. In Hieronymus’ compositions the viewer is fairly certain what is important in a scene as a result of size differences in the figures. For example, in Hieronymus’ “Christ before Caiaphas” (see Christ is the tallest figure and the seated Caiaphas is presented as the smallest figure. By showing these extremes of size, the principal figures stand out from the crowd. In the case of Johannes’ print, the figures are virtually all the same height and are all on the same level requiring the viewer to study the scene closely to determine who is important and who is not.

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