NATALIS, Hieronymus

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NATALIS, Hieronymus. Evangelicae Historiae Imagines [...]

Antwerp, [Martinus II Nuntius], 1596.


Folio. Text engraved in italics. Frontispiece plus 153 numbered engraved plates, in excellent impression, of scenes from the Evangelists, drawn by B. Passer and Martin de Vos, engraved by Anton, Johann and Hieronymus Wierx, C. de Mallerij and Johann Collaert. Engravings centred on each leaf, with title and label, 1 blank between pl. 6 and 7, and 3 final blanks. Autograph of ‘Robert Browne’ 1707 and ‘Mary Brown’ to recto of ffep, early manuscript index to recto of first blank and ms. ex dono 1744 to verso, from Miss Browne of Barnet to Reverend Joseph Paire. Light age yellowing, a few marginal stains and a bit of darkening at edges. A crisp, well-margined copy in contemporary natural morocco, richly stamped and gilt foliate border, neatly rebacked, original spine remounted, boards a little scuffed, repair to a couple of corners, a.e.g.

A beautiful and pioneering series of large, detailed engravings, amalgamated by the Jesuit Jerome Natalis, faithfully representing the life, death and resurrection of Christ as narrated in the gospels. A close follower of Ignatius of Loyola, he considered imagination to be a central part of meditative prayer and believed that images could serve as a stimulus for deeper religious contemplation. The engravings are by some of the most talented Flemish engravers, such as the Wierix family at Antwerp, reputed for their talents in printmaking, specialising in religious subject matter, Karel van Mallery (1571-1635?), a well-known engraver of religious subjects and portraits, and Jan Collaert the Elder (c.1525-1580), who helped to establish Antwerp as a leading centre of printmaking in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. They follow the drawings of Italian painter Bernardo Passari, whose work survives only as drawings used to illustrate books at Antwerp and Rome, and some by Maarten de Vos, best known for his history and allegorical paintings, as well as portraiture.

The engravings are arranged according to their order in de Loyola’s ‘Exercitia Spiritualis’ and were likely intended to be used with it as part of the devotional exercise. Nevertheless they demonstrate typical Renaissance artistic interest in perspective, anatomy, and humanism. The artists skilfully manipulate light and dark to highlight the key moment in the narrative, allowing for complex yet legible compositions. Multiple scenes unfold within a single frame, but are separated by elements of landscape or architecture, allowing for entire chapters of the Gospels to be captured in one image. Alphabetical labels are also present and correspond to a legend of short Latin captions. These help to guide the viewer through the continuous narrative composition. At the top of each engraving is a title identifying the main action of the scene, any corresponding passages from the Gospels and the date ascribed to the event by the Church. The index at the front summarises the corresponding scripture in table form.

USTC: 406993; Adams: N 56; not in Graesse or BM STC Dutch.
Stock Number: L4352 Categories: , ,