Gallery of prints for sale

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Jan Sadeler’s engraving “Noah Building the Ark”, 1586

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

“Noah Building the Ark” (TIB title) (aka “Construction of the Ark”), 1586, plate 12 from the series, “The Story of the Family of Seth” (aka “Bonorum et Malorum Consensio: The Knowledge of Good and Evil”), after a lost drawing by Maarten de Vos (aka Marten de Vos; Maerten de Vos) (1532–1603), published by Jan Sadeler I in Antwerp.

Engraving on laid paper trimmed along the platemark and backed with a support sheet.
Size: (sheet) 20.6 x 27.7 cm; (image borderline) 19.4 x 27.6 cm.

Numbered on plate within the image borderline: (partially erased at top centre edge) “XII”.
Inscribed on plate within the image borderline: (on anvil at lower left) “Sadelerus/ auct; scal”; (centre of lower edge) ‘Genes; cap: 6”; (lower right) “M. de vos figure:”
Lettered in two columns of two lines on plate below the image borderline: "Nec mora continuo .../ …// …/ …/ … ullis."
State ii (of ii) with the addition of the plate number (XII) at the top edge.

TIB 70. 040 S2 (Isabelle de Ramaix 1999, “The Illustrated Bartsch”, vol. 70, Part 1 [Supplement], Abaris Books, p. 61); Nagler 1835 1835–52m bi, 20; Le Blanc, no. 40; Wurzbach, no. 9.12; Hollstein 1980, vol. 21, no. 40; Edquist, p. 14, no. 18b; Ramaix 1992, no. 29.

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Construction of the Ark. Noah and another man saws a log before the skeletal superstructure of the Ark; a youth inside the boat hammers nails into the planks”
See also the description of this print at the Rijksmuseum:

Condition: richly inked and well-printed (near faultless) impression in excellent condition (i.e. there are no tears, folds, holes, abrasions, significant stains or foxing). The sheet is.trimmed along the platemark and backed with a support sheet of archival (millennium quality) washi paper.

I am selling this graphically strong and beautifully executed engraving by one of the most famous of the Flemish old masters for AU$288 (currently US$204.26/EUR177.72/GBP155.30 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 masterwork of engraving displaying technical excellence and a solid knowledge of perspective and rendering forms, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

Years ago I remember seeing in a remote village in the Solomon Islands the construction of a contemporary version of Noah’s Ark crafted without power tools and heaps of loving care. What impressed me when looking at this monstrous ship that the Islanders were making was the exposed skeleton of the wooden craft’s inner ribs as shown here. Even now, I still picture in my mind’s eye very clearly the cocoon-like arrangement of the wooden framework receding into darkness.

The reason that I mention this memory is that Sadeler has not simply drawn a partly constructed ship as an illustration to the biblical event of Noah and his sons building the Ark. Instead, Sadeler—and the intermediary draughtsman, Maarten de Vos—have visually “carved” the skeleton frame of the vessel into the illusion of believable space where light and air move freely through the gaps.

From my past life as a teacher of drawing, the idea of creating the illusion of space that seems real is not simply a case of employing the principles of perspective in a perfunctory way. Instead, achieving a meaningful illusion of space is more about “feeling”—sensing—and laying out the features of a scene from personal experience in a subconscious/intuitive manner. What I mean by this is that Sadeler has not drawn this ship by calculated reasoning. Rather, he has allowed his creative invention to enter into the skeleton framework of the ship and to arrange the ship’s features where he knew from experience they should be.

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