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Wednesday 23 August 2017

Johan Sadeler 1’s engraving, “Hermit Ciomus”, c1585

Johan Sadeler 1 (aka Jan Sadeler; Johannes Sadeler; Johann Sadeler) (1550–1600)

“Hermit Ciomus”, c1585, after a lost drawing by Maarten de Vos (1532–1603) from the series of 29 engraved plates of male hermits, “Solitudo sive Vitae Patrum Eremicolorum”, published by Sadeler (an unspecified member of the Sadeler family as inscribed on the plate but arguably Johan Sadeler)

Engraving on fine laid paper
Size: (sheet) 19.1 x 22.7 cm; (plate) 17.5 x 20.9 cm
Inscribed within the image at lower left: “Sadeler exe.”
Lettered below the image borderline in two columns of two lines: "Etsi non paucis CIOMVS …/ “…// 25// …/ … fuit.”
State: i (of ii) before erasure of the number, "25", in state ii

TIB 2001 7001.373.S1 (vol. 70, Part 2 [Supplement], pp. 211–12); Hollstein 1980, vol. 21, no. 402; Hollstein 1995-96, vol. 44, no 989; Nagler 1835–52, no. 135; Le Blanc, no. 121: Wurzbach, no. 113; Edquist, p. 66, no 76A.b

Condition: marvellously crisp, lifetime impression with small margins. There are a few stains otherwise in excellent condition.

I am selling this beautiful museum-quality engraving from 1585 for a total cost of AU$166 (currently US$131.12/EUR111.14/GBP102.50 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested in purchasing this rare image—perhaps unique in terms of Renaissance era prints—featuring the non-visual element of sound as expressed by the bell in the distant tower shown swinging mid-chime, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

According to Isabelle de Ramaix (2001) in her catalogue raisonné for Johan Sadeler 1 (see “The Illustrated Bartsch”, volume 70. Part 2 [Supplement]), at the time that this plate was executed “the cult of saints was very lively …and most of the popular saints were well known by ordinary people” (p. 169). What I find extraordinary about this particular hermit saint is that he never existed! There was no hermit named “Ciomus”! He was, to quote De Ramaix, “pure invention” (ibid).

I am not completely surprised to learn of this big fib from the 16th century as this afternoon while I was watering my garden and thinking about what life must be like as a hermit, an anomaly about this print started to play havoc in my head: why is a male hermit living so close to town when only lady hermits lived near towns? The silly thought occurred to me that Ciomus must have a leaning to the soft life with a love for quiche and opera but, when I read later this evening that he was a fictitious hermit, everything fell into place. I realised that the portrayed scene was indeed a scene set for a female saint and should never have had a male inhabiting it.

The “real” reason that I wished to post this print, however, has nothing to do with hermits. My reason to share it is simply because in my previous post featuring a splendid print by Galle, I discussed the principle employed by artists who use tonal contrast at the silhouette edge of forms. In short I explained how artists like Galle, and here with Sadeler, darken the background behind the lit side of a subject (e.g. the dome of the church) and lighten the background where the subject is in shadow.

Not only is this a superb example of the principle but this print has one other almost unique feature that sets it apart from many other etchings from the Renaissance era: it shows a bell in the church tower swinging mid-chime. This feature is remarkable for this time as very few images express the non-visual element: sound.

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