November 25, 2004

Hoefnagel & Hoefnagel’s Archetypa

In Frankfurt in 1592, one Jacob Hoefnagel, then still just nineteen years old, produced a book of fifty-two engravings based on paintings by his father Joris. The book’s full Latin title translates as: Archetypes and verses by Joris Hoefnagel, his father, are presented, engraved in copper under the guidance of his genius, and freely communicated in friendship to all lovers of the Muses by his son Jacob. The book comprised four sections, each with its own title-page and a dozen engravings of assorted flora and fauna. There follows a selection of images scanned from a reprint of the book produced by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich, in 1994.

First title page from Hoefnagel & Hoefnagel's 'Archetypa'.

Joris Hoefnagel was born in Antwerp, in 1542, into a wealthy merchant family. He attended University in Bourges, and Orléans, but religious turmoil cut his studies short. He was in Spain (on business) between 1563 and 1567: his earliest known sketches date from this period. He then spent two years in England before returning to Antwerp in 1570. He was married there the following year, and Jacob, his first child, was born in 1573. He left Antwerp again in 1575, travelling first to Venice, where he received his first artistic commission: to sketch views of the city for an atlas. He visited Germany for the first time the following year, securing an appointment as court painter for Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria. Before settling in Munich, however, the artist continued his travels, spending time in Rome and Naples in 1577.

The first engraving from part 1 of Hoefnagel & Hoefnagel's 'Archetypa'.


The second engraving from part 1 of Hoefnagel & Hoefnagel's 'Archetypa'.

Hoefnagel remained in Munich until the Counter-Reformation occasioned a change for the worse in the prevailing religious climate, one which obliged him to leave for Frankfurt (in 1591). As he changed cities, he exchanged patrons, leaving the service of Albrecht’s successor Wilhelm V for that of the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II. The artist spent three or four years in Frankurt before yet another religious dispute uprooted him: it is thought that he settled next in Vienna, where he lived and worked until his death in 1600 or 1601. Jacob Hoefnagel’s biography is no less eventful: after his father’s death he lived variously in Italy, Prague and Sweden, and seemingly spent as much of his time entangled in financial quarrels of various kinds as he did painting or engraving.

The eighth engraving from part 2 of Hoefnagel & Hoefnagel's 'Archetypa'.

The Archetypa is notable as one of the earliest books in which plants, and, more especially, insects (and other coldbloods) were depicted with any degree of ‘scientific’ accuracy. Even so, it would be a stretch to consider it a prototypical work of natural history, as Hoefnagel’s compositions are highly contrived and artificial. A few of the beasties depicted therein, moreover, are still drawn as much from imagination as from observation. The Archetypa was, we are told, widely used as a source-book by other artists, and its influence can apparently be traced throughout 17th-Century still-life painting.

The eighth engraving from part 3 of Hoefnagel & Hoefnagel's 'Archetypa'.


The ninth engraving from part 3 of Hoefnagel & Hoefnagel's 'Archetypa'.

Each of the Archetypa’s engravings includes a couple of Latin mottoes or verses, and this combination of text and image also lends the work an emblematic quality. The texts are often pious, devotional, or cautionary: many are Biblical or Classical quotations, others were devised by (Joris) Hoefnagel himself. The motto heading the engraving below states, for instance This variety in the ornament of the world: this is the glory of the highest artist. And, on the engraving above: Let us not investigate God’s works inquisitively using human reasoning; but, guided by the works, let us admire instead the artist.

The eighth engraving from part 4 of Hoefnagel & Hoefnagel's 'Archetypa'.



Click on the images above to see them much enlarged… For more of Hoefnagel’s work see this previous Giornale entry, or browse through these images from the holdings of the US National Gallery of Art.

Posted by misteraitch at November 25, 2004 02:25 PM | TrackBack

these are beautiful!
Glad you're back!

Posted by: michelle on December 1, 2004 11:01 PM

Thanks for the educational postings. Pretty advanced craft.

Posted by: Breton9 on December 4, 2004 01:13 AM

Very interesting pages from your website.
Go on with this. Succes, Gerard

Posted by: Gerard Hoefnagel on December 25, 2004 11:06 PM

when was the book Model Book of Calligraphy by Hoefnagel with the dragonfly and flowers made in?

Posted by: Kristen on February 21, 2005 03:02 AM

Kristen—Hoefnagel worked on the model book between about 1591 and 1596.

Posted by: misteraitch on February 21, 2005 09:25 AM

Where was the Model Book of Calligraphy written?

Posted by: Marlee on April 5, 2005 12:39 AM

Marlee—I believe it was written in Vienna: see this page for a few more details.

Posted by: misteraitch on April 5, 2005 02:37 PM

Hey, this was a lot of help. And I think that the artist didn't draw from imagination at all. The 'imagintive' animals/insects they are suggesting very well could have been there, and us not having been around won't know unless we delve deeper into it, and I don't think that is going to happen. I am interested in your veiws on the matter however.


Posted by: Kate Huntley on August 30, 2005 04:19 AM

This shit is gay ass dick balls. id rather you draw the pages out of a looney tunes coloring book faggot noodle.. or whatever your name is.

Posted by: Keegan on August 10, 2007 07:05 PM

Thanks for your erudite & thought-provoking contribution, Prof. Keegan.

Posted by: F. Noodle on August 11, 2007 01:29 PM
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