Wednesday 25 October 2017
Cornelis Galle I’s engraving, “Catching Night Moths”, c1596
Cornelis Galle I (1576– 1650) (1537–1612)
“Catching Night Moths”, c1596, Plate 25 (the BM’s copy is numbered 84 because I suspect that it is from the later and expanded edition of 104 plates) from the series, “Hunting Parties” (aka “Venationes Ferarum, Avium, Piscium” (transl. “With wild beasts, birds, fish”), after Jan van der Straet (aka Joannes Stradanus; Ioannes Stradanus) (1523–1605), published by Philips Galle (aka Philippe Galle; Philippus Gallaeus) (1537–1612) in Antwerp.
Engraving on laid paper with small margins and lined onto a support sheet of fine washi paper.
Size: (sheet) 21.1 x 27.1 cm; (plate) 20.6 x 26.8 cm; (image borderline) 18.2 x 26.3 cm
Inscribed within the image borderline: (at left following the tree root) “I. Stradan. inv. C. Galle sculp.”; (right on the large rock in the corner) “Phls Galle excu.”
Lettered below the image borderline: (left) “25”; (centre in two columns of two lines of Latin text) “Melliferis infesti ... ardore necantur.”
State: ii (of iii?) before change of the plate number to “84”, as shown in the state iii copy held by the BM (no. 1957,0413.80)
New Hollstein (Dutch & Flemish) 490.III (Johannes Stradanus); New Hollstein (Dutch & Flemish) 455.III (Philips Galle); Baroni Vannucci 1997 693.84 (Alessandra Baroni Vannucci 1997, “Jan van der Straet, detto Giovanni Stradano, flandrus pictor et inventor”, Milan, Jandi Sapi Editori)
The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Catching of Night Moths; moths are lured to three burning lamps by night; men and boys use sticks to draw the insects out from the shrubbery; farm buildings stand to the right, while a church is seen beyond”
Condition: near faultless, museum quality, richly inked impression with small margins in excellent condition (i.e. there are no tears, holes, abrasions, folds, stains or foxing) laid upon a support sheet of conservator’s fine archival/millennium quality washi paper.
I am selling this exceptionally rare, engraving from the late 1500s for a total cost of AU$244 (currently US$188.17/EUR159.62/GBP141.90 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this spectacular night scene—a rare subject in the Renaissance era—please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.
This print has been sold
Night scenes may seem like they would be easy subjects to create, in the sense that all an artist needs is a strong light and strong shadow and hey presto! … a night scene is created. Of course, to create a finely tuned representation of how light “works” in darkness is much more involved as may be seen here.
One of the key principles is what is termed the Inverse-Square Law. This “law” or perhaps “guide” is that the degree of illumination decreases at the following ratio: the distance that a subject is away from the light source squared (see my formal discussion about this topic at http://www.printsandprinciples.com/2012/03/berchem-inverse-square-law.html). In this print, for example, each of the three moth-catching lights on the ground projects a halo of harsh tonal contrasts on the features closest to them but this degree of contrast decreases gradually into the evening darkness. A feature in this print that really appeals to me is the way that Galle uses the just a hint of light catching on the peripheral leaves in the dark foliage mass at the very top of the composition.
Another important principle is that the surface textures of forms—see for example the hindquarters of the foreground dog—exhibit no surface textures in the strongest light but in the less strongly lit areas reveal surface textures like the hair on a dog.
The final principle that I will mention is the one that is the most effective of all and one which is the hallmark of the truly great masters because it is such a subtle device to employ: reflected light. Note how Galle introduces the suggestion of cast light from the ground illuminating the shadow on the foreground figure’s legs on the right. At first glance a detail like this could be overlooked but it shows the mastery of Galle in showing delicate light that is “bounced” even into the darkest of shadows.