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Tuesday 9 October 2018

Willem Isaacsz. van Swanenburg’s engraving (with etching), “Judas Iscariot”, 1611

Willem Isaacsz. van Swanenburg (aka Willem van Swanenburg) (1580–1612)
“Judas Iscariot” (aka “Judas hangs himself”; “Ivdas Iscarioth” [title on plate]), 1611, plate 6 after Abraham Bloemaert (1564–1651), from the series of six engravings, “Sinners of the Old and New Testament” (Hollstein 7–12), published by Willem van Swanenburg, with lines of text by Petrus Scriverius (aka Peter Schrijver; Peter Schryver) (1576–1660).

Engraving with etching on fine laid paper.
Size: (sheet) 36.8 x 23.8 cm; (plate) 27.2 x 17.2 cm; (image borderline) 24.6 x 16.6 cm
Inscribed on plate within the image borderline: (upper right) “A.Bloemaert Inventor / W. Swanenb. Sculp: et excud. / 1611.”
Lettered on plate below the image borderline in two columns of three lines of descriptive Latin text by Petrus Scriverius: "Iamdudum temeras Deum, ... / ... triste pependit onus.”; (lower centre) "IVDAS ISCARIOTH."; (lower right corner) “[…] 6. / P.S extempore.”
State iii (of iii)

Hollstein Dutch 12-3 (3)

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Judas Iscariot. The apostle seated under a tree and tying a rope around his neck, a pouch with coins next to him at left, Judas seen hanging from a tree in right background”
See also the description of this print at the Rijksmuseum:

Condition: near faultless impression with generous margins in excellent condition (i.e. there are no tears, folds, holes, abrasions or significant stains—there are two dots in the margin towards the lower right).

I am selling this museum-quality engraving from 1611 that I see as fitting the description of “ravishingly beautiful” for AU$360 (currently US$254.67/EUR221.94/GBP195.12 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 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

Artists in the early 17th century had a special visual device to make even a deeply disturbing scene like the suicide scene shown here seem like a poetic and sensually beautiful event: “the line of grace” (i.e. a serpentine curved line in the composition that flows through a composition).

This gentle “S”-shaped flow in the composition leading vertically from the foreground up through the centre of Judas to the tree behind him not only links the the earth with the sky beyond in a visually seductive way, but it also helps to subliminally suggest the notion of Judas’ pending death by hanging portrayed graphically in the far distance on the right. What I mean by this subliminal projection of his “pending death” is the dynamic line passing up through the centre of the apostle follows a path tracing through the rope noose around Judas' neck as well as through the space between his arms and the space between the forked limbs of the tree behind him. In short, what I psychologically feel when I follow the course of the “line of grace”—and I need to add that this may be a strictly personal experience—is akin to the act of strangulation that Judas is entering into.

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