Maggs Bros Ltd

Proscenium vitae humanae, sive emblematum secularium, iucundissima, & artificiosissima varietate vitae humanae & seculi huius depravati mores, ac studio perversissima adumbrantium...Frankfurt, Wilhelm Fitzer,

BRY Theodore de (1627)


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Fine engraved title with nine circular figures and two small white shields left blank, 73 engraved emblems by Johann Theodor de Bry partly after Brueghel the Elder, of which 72 numbered.

4to. 18th century polished calf, triple gilt fillets on covers, flat gilt spine (upper cover joint restored, spine and corners rubbed).

Renouard's copy of the third edition of de Bry's fine emblem book, first published as Emblemata saecularia in 1596. The first edition had only 50 engravings while the second of Oppenheim, 1611, had 72 as found here. Both these earlier editions also had escutcheons not called for here although some copies are found with a number 'derived from earlier editions' (Landwehr).

In this full complement of emblems 25 are after Brueghel the Elder. The engravings were mainly after Hans Bol, Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Breughel, Karel van Mander, Maarten de Vos etc.

"The book is a mirror of the world, of human folly, of joys and desires, of daily life in all its variety. At the beginning stand Democritus and Heraclitus, the two Greek philosophers who look at life, one laughing, the other weeping. In the delightful plates, people are shown in their daily occupations, working, playing, eating and drinking, feasting, fighting and making love. There are scenes in kitchens and taverns, in the market place, in the barber shop. There is the alchemist, the quack doctor, the magician, the wheel of fortune. The most fascinating plates are those which have been based on prints by Pieter Breughel the Elder: the Ass in School, the Alchemist, the Meager Kitchen, the Parable of the Blind, and others. There are 17 Brueghel plates, eight of them from the "Proverbs": among them "the Scolding Woman and the Cackling Hen", "the Selfish Man who Warms his Hands at his Burning House", "the Man with the Money Bag and His Flatterers".-One plate at least has been taken from Hieronymus Bosch: the Company of Musicians Sailing in a Clam Shell (apparently not noted by art historians). (Plate 13). Another charming plate illustrates a "marriage game", a sort of Blind Man's Buff where girls and boys, blind-folded, chose their partners. Here also is the tree on which pretty girls grow, and the egg dance. But after all these cheerful things, the book ends on a somber and serious note: the last two plates are dance of death motives: death and the young nobleman; death and the maiden." (Salloch).

Provenance: Antoine-Augustin Renouard's (1765-1853) copy with his accession number on fly-leaf, 'No. 1729. +'. Catalogue de la Bibliothèque d'un Amateur (1819), vol. III, p. 269 "Jolie gravures... celui-ci est le plus curieux et aussi le plus rare"

Praz pp. 290-1. Landwehr (German) no. 157.


Stock Code: 217432