May 13, 2007

Crispin de Passe

Crispin de Passe (1564-1637), whose forename is also variously given as Crispijn, Crispiaen and Chrispyn, or Latinised as Crispinus or Crispianus, and whose surname as van de Passe, de Pas, Passeus, etc., was a prolific engraver and a successful printseller who worked variously in Antwerp, Aachen, Cologne and Utrecht. As Crispin’s eldest son Crispin became a noteworthy engraver too, he also goes by Crispijn I de Passe, or Crispin van de Pas the Elder… It wasn’t only Crispin jr. who followed in his father’s footsteps, so did his younger brothers Simon and William (whose work I’ve briefly mentioned here), and his sister Magdalena. The images that follow are scans of prints reproduced in two volumes about de Passe (Crispijn de Passe and His Progeny (1564-1670): A Century of Print Production; and Profit and Pleasure: Print Books by Crispijn de Passe), both by Ilja M. Veldman, and published in 2001 by Sound and Vision Publishers, Rotterdam.

'Water,' an engraving by Crispin de Passe after a design by Martin de Vos, from a series of 'The Four Elements,' ca 1600-10.

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'Night,' an engraving by Crispin de Passe from a series of 'The Four Times of Day,' ca 1600-10.

Crispin was born at Arnemuiden on the island of Walcheren in Zeeland, but his family moved to Antwerp while he was still quite young. De Passe’s earliest known works date from 1584, and, later that year, or in ’85, he entered the rolls of the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke. It is not known with whom he studied, but his early style, according to Veldman, resembles that of the brothers Johannes and Hieronymus Wierix. Crispin’s fledgling career was greatly assisted by his marriage to Magdalena de Bock, a niece (by marriage) of the prolific painter and designer Martin de Vos—the great majority of de Passe’s early prints follow designs by de Vos. Antwerp, meanwhile, had literally been under siege. An agreement signed after the city’s surrender to the Spanish in ’85 gave Protestants an ultimatum: convert to Catholicism, or leave within four years. De Passe, a staunch and steadfast Mennonite, opted to depart.

'Love in Exchange for Stolen Money,' an engraving by Crispin de Passe after a design by Jacques Bellange, from a series of 'Witticisms from Italian Comedies,' ca 1605-10.

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'A Husband Cuckolded by his Young Wife,' an engraving by Crispin de Passe after a design by Jacques Bellange, from a series of 'Witticisms from Italian Comedies,' ca 1605-10.

In 1588 De Passe and his wife briefly settled in Aachen, which was where he first set up shop as an independent engraver and printselller, and where the first of his prints made after his own designs were published. The religious and political climate in Aachen was no more hospitable than it had been in occupied Antwerp, however, and, in 1589, Emperor Rudolf II. issued an edict expelling all heretics (in this instance, all Protestants) from the city. This time, De Passe moved to nearby Cologne, which, being another predominantly Catholic city, could not have been an ideal refuge either. Despite his marginal position as a refugee unable to claim citizenship, de Passe remained in Cologne for more than twenty years: his art and his business flourished alike, and his five children were all born there.

'Young Man Snared by a Prostitute,' an engraving by Crispin de Passe, from the book 'Hortus Voluptatem,' 1599.

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'Young Man Driven out of a Brothel,' an engraving by Crispin de Passe, from the album 'Stirpum, Insigniatem Nobilitatis...,' ca.1610.

De Passe’s prints covered all manner of subjects. He engraved many biblical and other devotional scenes, not avoiding such specifically Catholic imagery as depictions of the virgin, and of the lives of the saints; he issued portrait prints of rulers, nobles, generals, scholars & other prominent figures; he executed many allegorical series of engravings on such themes as the seven virtues and vices, the seven planets, the seven ages of man, the five senses, the four elements, the four seasons and the four times of day; he produced illustrations of scenes from Homer, Ovid and Virgil; he designed a particularly fine set of emblem-engravings, those adorning Gabriel Rollenhaugen’s influential 1611 Nucleus emblematum selectissimorum…; and he issued albums of prints aimed at the students in Cologne’s university, juxtaposing straightforward depictions of varsity life with scenes intended to inspire moral reflection.

'Shrovetide Games,' an engraving by Crispin de Passe, from the book 'Hotus Voluptatem,' 1599.

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'Visit to a Tavern,' an engraving by Crispin de Passe, from the book 'Student Life,' 1612.

The present images are as follows: (i) a fisherman and his wife illustrating Water, from a series of ‘the four elements’ and (ii) Night from a quartet of prints on ‘the four times of day,’ in which a gentleman drinks a nightcap while his lady tries to persuade him to come to bed; (iii) and (iv) belong to a series of engravings after designs by Jacques Bellange, portraying Witticisms from Italian Comedies—in the first illicit love is traded for stolen money, and in the second, a aging husband is cuckolded by his young wife; (v) Young Man Snared by a Prostitute and (vi) Young Man Driven from a Brothel, although drawn from different series of engravings, could be construed as part of a single cautionary tale; (vii) shows us Shrovetide Games being played, while (viii) is a Visit to a Tavern.

'A Young Man Preferring a Sweetheart of his own Age to a Rich old Woman,' an engraving by Crispin de Passe, from a series of 'Lessons About Love,' ca. 1600-10.

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A Young Woman Preferring a Suitor of her own Age to a Rich old Man,' an engraving by Crispin de Passe, from a series of 'Lessons About Love,' ca. 1600-10.

Lastly, (ix) and (x), above, are a pendant pair of moralising prints: A Young Man Preferring a Sweetheart of his own Age to a Rich Old Woman and A Young Woman Preferring a Suitor of her Own Age to a Rich Old Man. Ironically, when de Passe was a wealthy old widower himself, his wife having died in 1635, he married (in ’36) a much younger woman. His children’s alarm at the implications for their inheritance resulted in months of legal negotiations, which had barely been resolved at de Passe’s death.

Posted by misteraitch at May 13, 2007 01:52 PM
Comments

Very interesting post, and great blog

Posted by: gavieroloco on May 16, 2007 11:56 PM

Nice contrast between Bellange’s own etchings and these engravings based on his designs.

Posted by: e.b. on May 17, 2007 09:47 PM

I am very glad to discover that these two (expensive) books of mine about the De Passe family got some readers and raised interest! I devoted so many years of research to them. Who is the author of this interesting site?

Posted by: Ilja Veldman on May 20, 2007 01:56 PM

Excellent piece. Do you by any chance know a print by Crispin de Pas of a couple dancing somewhat lecherously, with goings on on a bed in the background, and moralising verses underneath?

Posted by: jeremy barlow on July 31, 2007 06:11 PM

Jeremy—I took another look through the books I have about de Passe, but, alas, couldn’t find a print matching your description.

Posted by: misteraitch on August 3, 2007 12:20 AM
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