HSD (monogrammist), IS (monogrammist) and Van Der Borcht, Pieter, after.


HSD (monogrammist), IS (monogrammist) and Van Der Borcht, Pieter, after. Vita Christi.

[s.n.], [s.n.], c.1570-80.


Oblong 12mo, ff. [4 blank], 57 of a possible 60 plates, [8 blank], 59 and 60 apparently never included, residue of stub to pl. 20. Watermark: coat of arms surmounted by trefoil. Engraved title with half-figure of Christ within frame depicting scientifically accurate fruit and animals; 57 numbered miniature engravings (62 x 48mm) printed on recto or verso, signed HSD, PB or IS. A few lower edges untrimmed, slight browning in places (damp paper), small ink burn to blank lower edge of a dozen ll., extreme lower outer blank corner of last few ll. ink stained and a trifle frayed, occasional minor finger-soiling to blank margins. A very good, unsophisticated copy in contemporary limp vellum, lacking ties. Ms. autograph ‘1583 Di Pellegrino Pellegrini’ (lightly crossed out) and later ms. ‘Di Francesco Spada’ to first blank, C16 pen trials to blank verso of pl.12 (Pellegrini’s?).

This charming little book was in the library of Pellegrino Pellegrini (or Pellegrino Tibaldi, 1527-96) c.1583, the famous Italian Mannerist painter and architect, who worked extensively in Milan (esp. at the Chiesa di San Carlo Borromeo) and at the Escorial, replacing Federico Zuccari. This autograph is strikingly similar, in shape and style of the letters, to that on a holograph architectural drawing of the Sanctuary of Caravaggio (Pellegrini, pl.VII). Illustrated works focusing on the New Testament were very popular at the time, Pellegrini had a similar one for the Old Testament in his library. ‘Pellegrino may have used such works not only for personal devotion, but also as iconographic sources for his paintings’ (Giuliani, p.80).

Very rare collection of miniature biblical engravings illustrating episodes from the life of Christ. In addition to the title, this volume includes 57 exquisite plates – here in fine impression – out of a total of 60 (cf. Nagler, Brulliot and New Hollstein), plus an engraved title with charming and naturalistic depictions of plants and animals. Pocket-size collections of images like this one were carried around by artists as both instruments of personal devotion and sources of inspiration; for this reason they very rarely survive intact or complete. Of the 6 recorded copies in New Hollstein – excluding the present, which appears to be the only one known to have been bound – 4 are incomplete and 1 unspecified.

18 engravings were cut by Monogrammist HSD. About 40 overall are after designs by Pieter van der Borcht (cf. New Hollstein). A renowned Flemish painter and etcher, Borcht worked as an illustrator for Plantin, e.g., on Dodoen’s famous herbarium as well as numerous liturgical works. Monogrammist HSD was a Dutch engraver active in the period 1570-80, possibly in Antwerp (cf. Nagler). His extant work focuses on biblical illustrations, including a suite of engravings of the 12 apostles, after the German painter Hans Sebald Beham. 8 engravings, including the title, are here signed ‘PB’. No. 32 bears a monogram which could be read ‘IS’ or ‘SI’, and which remains unidentified; no. 46 is signed ‘HDS’, perhaps for ‘HSD’.

Nagler III, p. 635, n. 1519; Brulliot I, p. 202, n. 1592; New Hollstein Dutch, Borcht I, 15-75; Thieme-Becker, XXXVII, p. 412. M. Giuliani, ‘La biblioteca di Casa Pellegrini’, Studia Borromaica, 12 (1998), pp.39-100; P. Pellegrini, L’architettura, ed. G. Panizza (1990).
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