May 29, 2005


I’ve written a couple of times here about the work of the 16th century Flemish miniaturist Joris (or George) Hoefnagel (1542-1601). One day a few months ago I did an abebooks search on his name, and noticed one Amsterdam-based bookseller was offering a volume which reproduced a suite of emblems by Hoefnagel entitled Patientia (Patience). I could find only the slightest references to this work on-line, and, at length, I decided to order the book and see it for myself.

Detail showing the 'Patientia' manuscript's decorated main title.

It turns out that Hoefnagel’s emblem-book only ever existed in manuscript, or at least it did until the fac-simile edition (the book I had obtained) was issued in Antwerp in 1935. The manuscript included twenty-four drawings, each one accompanied by an eight-line verse in Flemish, French, or Spanish. While these drawings lack the polish of the miniatures for which Hoefnagel is renowned, they are interesting nevertheless, and, as they date from some years before he had even accepted his first artistic commission, they could be considered perhaps as apprentice-pieces.

Detail from the third 'Patientia' emblem: 'Patientighen Coopman'.


Detail from the ninth 'Patientia' emblem: 'Patiente cornudo'.

The manuscript’s title in full is: Traité de la Patience, Par Emblêmes Inventées et desinées par George Hoefnagel à Londres, L’an 1569. Hoefnagel had been in London on business for most of 1568 and ’69, during which time, we read, ‘he moved in the company of his peers, rich Dutch and Flemish merchants, such as Johannes Radermacher, who were in close contact with the English court and nobility.’ Evidently though, his business duties & social obligations permitted him plenty of time for sketching, painting and versification.

Detail from the sixteenth 'Patientia' emblem: 'Patiente engannado'.


Detail from the eighteenth 'Patientia' emblem: 'Patientich Verkeerder'.

The drawings themselves seem simply illustrative of the situations or morals in the verses, and there is little or no obtrusive symbolism. That said, merely not being able to decipher the verses can make puzzles of the drawings: I’ve no idea, for example, what is going on between the two men in the foreground of the second of the images above. As for the guard or sentry in the fourth image, my first thought was that he was badly in need of taking a piss, but, having partly-construed the Spanish in the accompanying verse, it seems he is cold, & is presumably just trying to warm his hand.

Detail from the nineteenth 'Patientia' emblem: 'Patient Allendich'.


Detail from the twentieth 'Patientia' emblem: 'Patientighe henghelroijuisschers'.

The book from which I scanned these images is entitled Patientia, 24 Politieke Emblemata door Joris Hoefnagel, 1569, in fac simile…. It was edited by one Dr. Rob. Van Roosbroeck, and published by ‘de Seven Sinjoren.’ Click on the detail images above to see the drawings in full, and enlarged.

Posted by misteraitch at May 29, 2005 05:56 PM

You seems to like (ancient?) Belgian culture. From Jean Ray to this and many more.
Greetings from Brussels to you Mr H!

Posted by: Igor on May 30, 2005 08:29 PM
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