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Philips Galle: een inventieve prentontwerper

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image of Oud Holland - Quarterly for Dutch Art History

Philips Galle (1537-1612) is best known as a productive engraver and publisher of prints. I Iowever, scant attention has been paid to the fact that he himself often designed prints which he or others engraved. This disregard of Galle's role as inventor is unfair, for many of his representions are particularly interesting for their iconography: several of the themes are original, conceived either by Galle himself or inspired by literary sources and introduced to Netherlandish art for the first time. Only a couple of his designs have been preserved: the drawings Perseus and Andromeda (fig. 1) and Vulcan Vanquished by Pallas (fig. 2), neither of which is signed. There is no doubting Galle's authorship however, because his prints always bear his name as the inventor. In alba amicorum he also drew a Head of Christ (in 1577 and 1579) and a I lead of Hercules (1582), (fig. 3). Galle's first print after a design of his own, Hiernnymus in the Desert (1561), was published by Hieronymus Cock. Despite the absence of the name of a publisher, Galle himself probably published the other prints which he made later, during his Haarlem period (from 1563 to ca. 1570). The verses on the prints are by Hadrianus Junius, the Haarlem humanist who was his friend. Galle's designs of this period are very similar in style to Maarren van Heemskerck's : from the late 1550s on, Galle made engravings of some hundred or so of van Heemskerck's drawings. Another evident influence is that of Frans Floris, whose work Galle also engraved during this period. Many designs from Galle's Haarlem period are highly original, in particular The Wretchedness of Human Existence (1563; figs.4-9) is exceptional for the total absence in the series of any religious allusion or eschatological prospect. The six prints depict man's life starting with his birth and going on to show how he has to learn everything, succumbs to his own failings and falls victim to sickness, poverty, imprisonment and death. The series ends with the lesson that man, unlike animals, is always out for his fellow-man's blood. Galle's Four Elemetns (15 64; figs. 10-13) marked the first appearance of the theme as a series in Netherlandish prints. Earth, Water, Air and Fire are not, as later became customary, represcnted as personifications with attributes, but as gods of Antiquity : Cybele, Neptune, Juno and Jupiter respectively. Galle based his depictions of them on 16th-century Italian mythographers : Cartari's Le Imagini de i Dei degli Anitichi (1556) and Giraldi's De Deis Gentium (1548). The Sluggard's Punishment (figs. 14 and 15) and The power of Women (fig. 16) act as moral examples from the bible. In the former series Galle resorts to passages from Proverbs for his inventive object lesson that the sluggard who refuses to work must suffer poverty and want. His prints of the guiles of women in the Old Testament (Adam and Eve, Lot and his daughters, Jael and Siscra, Samson and Delilah, Solomon and his concubines and Judith and Holofernes) illustrate how women gain ascendance over men by dint of cunning deception, flattery or passion. The Adoration of the Name of Jesus (fig. 17) is one of the first Netherlandish representations of the IHS monogram. We see it being worshipped by hierarchically arranged representatives of the spiritual and secular powers, by angels in heaven and souls in purgatory. Galle continued to design prints after he moved to Antwerp (1570/71). Other engravers usually incised them in copper now: Crispijn de Passe 1, Hieronymus Wierix, Johannes Collaert. Gallc's son-in-law Adriaan Collaert and his son Theodoor Galle. Henceforth the prints bore Galle's official address as publisher. During this period his style underwent a considerable change. The influence of Heemskerck and Floris was superseded by that of Anthonie Blocklandt and Johannes Stradanus, the most important artists of whose work Galle had been making prints since 1571. The South-Netherlandish humanists Cornelis Kilianus and Hugo Favolius replaced Junius as text-writers. Galle's iconography displayed a radical change too. Virtually all the figures in his prints were now elegant nudes. He pictured gods, goddesses, demigods (some of them published in books of prints (fig. 18), stories from classical mythology (Perseus and Andromeda, fig. 1; The Adultery of Venus and Mars, figs. 19-20; Psyche and Cupid, fig. 22), from classical history (Sophonisha's Suicide and Cleopatra's Suicide) and a Fortuna based on a composition by Melchior Lorck (fig. 21). Vulcan Vanquished by Pallas (figs. 2 and 23) is a most unusual print. The representation derives from the story in Hyginus' Fabulae of how Pallas Athena successfully defended her virginity against Vulcan's attempts to take her by force. The Latin verse and pictorial details (the burning torch, Cupid's broken bow and Pallas' owl, which has put one of his arrows out of action) leave the beholder in no doubt as to Galle's intention to convey the moral that chastity vanquishes voluptuous lust. The Four Winds (figs. 24-27), like the Four Elements, were the first independent representation in Netherlandish art. Galle again turned to Cartari's Le Inzagini de i Dei degli Antichi for his depictions of Eurus, Zephyr, Boreas and Auster as winged figures. His revived interest in the allegory is also reflected in the forty-three personifications (figs. 28-20;) in Prosopogruphia, a book of models intended for painters, engravers, poets and orators. Galle's merits as an inventor, then, are chiefly in the area of iconography: his originality is largely due to his depictions of themes without a pictorial tradition in his day. His activities as both a publisher and a draughtsman of edifying allegories and classical themes demonstrate his erudite and humanistically inclined personality.


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