August 18, 2004

Bretschneider

I keep returning to the on-line emblem-books presented by the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, Germany (most recently here). Today, I’ve been leafing through a book by one Andreas Bretschneider (ca. 1578-1640) entitled Pratrum Emblematicum (1617), which presents emblems grouped astrologically in seven sections corresponding to the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn respectively.

'Luna', emblem #8 from Bretschneider's 'Pratrum Emblematicum'.

Six of the seven emblems for the celestial bodies themselves (not reproduced here) show suitably Olympian deities reclining among the clouds. Only Luna (above) departs from this format, being depicted riding atop a fish, from which, perhaps, she is directing the ebb and flow of the tides.

'Fortuna non mutat Genus', emblem #7 from Bretschneider's 'Pratrum Emblematicum'.

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'Pietas tutissima Virtus', emblem #16 from Bretschneider's 'Pratrum Emblematicum'.

The remaining emblems (there are fifty in all) are a mixed bag. I recognised a couple as straightforward copies from Alciato, whilst others (notably, I suspect, the sledding and skating scenes below) seem to be Bretschneider’s own compositions. There is a nice balance of the humorous and the serious. An example of the former is the farting donkey (above) from whose motto, Fortuna non mutat Genus, I presume we are supposed to conclude that a priveliged ass is still very much an ass.

'Recta', emblem #44 from Bretschneider's 'Pratrum Emblematicum'.

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'Cuiq; suum pulcrum', emblem #44 from Bretschneider's 'Pratrum Emblematicum'.

I found very little information about Bretschneider himself. From this page I learned the approximate dates of his birth and death, that he hailed from Dresden, and was a painter as well as an engraver. I guess he must have moved to Leipzig some time before 1617, as his books were published in the latter city.

'Ad vivum', emblem #23 from Bretschneider's 'Pratrum Emblematicum'.

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'Et Saxa transformantur', emblem #24 from Bretschneider's 'Pratrum Emblematicum'.

Besides emblems for his own works, Bretschneider also produced engravings to illustrate the German edition of a book by the Italian military engineer Agostino Ramelli. Another of his engravings, an illustration for a volume by one Tobias Hübner, has the distinction of being one of the earliest known depictions of ‘El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, Cavallero de la Triste Figura.’

'Prudenter, ut Serpentes, ut Colombae simpliciter', emblem #33 from Bretschneider's 'Pratrum Emblematicum'.

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'Sequitur interitus', emblem #50 from Bretschneider's 'Pratrum Emblematicum'.

Click on the images to see them enlarged.

Posted by misteraitch at August 18, 2004 01:25 PM | TrackBack