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Tuesday 28 August 2018

Jan Sadeler I’s engraving, “The Calling of Abraham”, 1575–1600

Jan Sadeler I (aka Johannes Sadeler; Johann Sadeler) (1550–1600)

“The Calling of Abraham”, 1575–1600, after a painting by Jacopo Bassano (aka Giacomo Bassano; Jacopo da Ponte) (c1510/18–1592) that was in the Giusti collection in Verona at the end of the sixteenth century but is now lost (see TIB 7001.052), published by Jan Sadeler I with imperial court privilege (as noted on plate).

Engraving on fine laid paper with small margings and backed on a support sheet.
Size: (sheet) 22.1 x 277; (plate) 21.5 x 26.4 cm; (image borderline) 20 x 26.4 cm
Inscribed within the image borderline: (centre of upper edge) "GENES XII”; (inverted text emerging from cloud at upper centre) “Egredere de terra tua”; (centre of lower edge) “Cũ priuilegio/ Sac:Cæs. M.”
Lettered on plate below the image borderline: (two-line dedication to Augustinus de Justis) "IN GRATIAM PERILLVSTRIS COMITIS AVGVSTINI DE IVSTIS, PINXIT IACOBVS DE PONTO BASSAN,/ VERONAE"/ Scalpsit autem Joann. Sadeler Belg."
Lifetime impression (based on the crisp quality of the line showing no sign of wear to the printing plate) of the only state.

TIB 1999 7001.052 (Isabelle de Ramaix 1999, “The Illustrated Bartsch: Johan Sadeler l”, vol 70, part 1 (Supplement), Abaris Books, Norwalk, p. 76); Hollstein 53

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“The Calling of Abraham. Landscape with a couple making cheese (?) in lower right, their animals beyond, a shepherd resting at the foot of a tree at left, Abraham as a shepherd in background and being addressed by the words 'Egredere de terra tua' emerging from a cloud; after Jacopo Bassano”

See also the description of this print at the Rijksmuseum:

Condition: crisp, near faultless impression trimmed with small margins and backed with a support sheet of archival (millennium quality) washi paper. The sheet is in excellent/museum-quality condition (i.e. there are no tears, holes, folds, abrasions, significant stains or foxing).

I am selling this exceptionally rare masterpiece of engraving by one of the greatest of the old master printmakers for the total cost of AU$347 (currently US$254.88/EUR217.88/GBP197.71 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested in purchasing this breathtakingly fine engraving, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

There are so many interesting elements to this composition such as the portrayed activity of making cheese on the right with what seems to be a small whiskered dog wishing to participate in the production shown with its head sniffing at the ripe smells coming from the curds in the pot—my apologies if curds (or whatever is in the pot) don’t have an odour but I need to establish in my head what this curious looking dog is interested in.

My attention, however, is not so much on what is depicted in the scene: it’s on the line of text emanating from heaven … or at least from the light filled gap in the clouds. Again, my interest is not about the meaning of the words but rather that the words are upside down. If one thinks about this curious inversion the artist’s arrangement of God’s words to sleeping Abraham in the foreground to “Egredere de terra tua”—(transl.) "Get out of your” land, your relatives, and your father's home. Go to the land that I will show you (Genesis 12.1)—it all makes sense. God is speaking to Abraham from heaven and so the viewer needs to turn upside down to see/hear the words from God’s perspective. Sheer magic! From an historical standpoint this is not the first example of an artist seeking to engage a viewer in a reflexive response of turning upside down to be a part of a portrayed scene (see for example Jan van Eyck’s “Annunciation”, c1435), but they are rare nevertheless.

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