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Joris Hoefnagel (1542–1601) and his eldest son Jacob (1573–1632) published in 1592 a series of prints, entitled “Archetypa studiaque patris Georgii Hoefnagelii”; this series consisted of 4 parts, each of 12 plates engraved in copper. [1]

Hoefnagel 1

“Joris Hoefnagel was the son of a wealthy merchant family, and received a comprehensive education (studia humaniora); Joris wrote, drew, played music and spoke many languages. He attended the universities of Bourges and Orléans and toured Spain and England. Together with the cartographer Ortelius he set out on a journey to Venice and Rome. From 1591 he lived in the city of Frankfurt am Main, where he was in a circle of Dutch humanists, merchants, artists and publishers, to whom the botanist C. Clusius attended. In this circle Joris made drawings, subsequently engraved by Jacob. As eldest son, he went to Antwerp in a painter’s apprenticeship and met the famous copper engraver Raphael Sadeler the Elder.
Many of the plants and small animals are reproduced here for the first time figuratively. The flower illustrations broke with tradition and became independent image motives, as known, north of the Alps, only from Dürer’s watercolours. Also new was the presentation of the symbiosis between plant and insect. Hoefnagel was one of the first who raised insects into an independent subject in a painting. Besides the insects there are – with the exception of the mouse – only cold-blooded animals, viz. lizards, frogs, snails, earthworms , shellfish, scorpion, and lobster, as well as a variety of mostly uninhabited shells.
The Archetypa was aimed to both lovers of plants and small animals, as well as a pattern book for artists. The work also marks the beginning of the enthusiasm for the copper engraved flower still life, that invited both to aesthetic contemplation and to internal reflection. Contributing to this are the aphorisms, aimed at the poetry lovers” [2].

Each plate has two numbers, one in the lower right for the different parts, and one in the lower left numbered within the series (hereafter referred to as e.g. ‘print I:1’). Only those plates with a malacological illustration (within the context of the blog theme) will be treated here; first the prints, followed by the text. It may be noted that, with one exception mentioned below, all figured are shown as mirror-image. Perhaps Jacob Hoefnagel was not very experienced yet with the new technique? [3].


Print I:1 bears the text above “Dicite Deo quam terribilia sunt opera tua Domine in multitudine / virtutis tuae mentientur tibi innimici tui. psa: 65”, and below “Danti mihi artem dabo gloriam”. Besides a tropical sea shell at left, a slug is seen in the lower right-hand corner. It is possibly a Arion species.


Print I:2 has the adigium “Festina lente” at the top, and a prominent Helix pomatia snail in the centre. The bottom line reads “Deus docuisti me a iuuentute mea et vsque nunc pronunciabo mirabilia tua. psa: 30”.


VIRVM IMPROBVM VEL MVRES MORDEANT” reads the inscription above print I: 3, while the text in the bottom-line is “Collige Virgo Rosas, dum ver novu[m] et nova pubes: et mamor es to aeuum sic properare tuum”. On the left side, a snail is seen in dorso-lateral view on the leaf of a rose. Although the snail doesn’t seem to be very stylised, it is as yet unidentifiable. Is this perhaps modelled after a Oxychilus species?


The next plate shows a sea shell and a snail. This figure is somewhat stylised, but may have been modelled with a Cepaea or Arianta species in mind. The text at the top reads “Qui sedet super gijrum terrae, et habitatores/ eius sunt sicut locustae Jsa: 40”; the bottom text is “sola perpetuo manent / subiecta nulli mentis atq[ue] animi bona / florem decoris singuli carpunt dies”.


Print I:5 shows a snail in the lower left part. It is possible that this has been modelled after the same species as print I:3. The text above is “Narrabo o[mn]ia mirabilia tua domine. psa: 9”; at the bottom is “Quod invocatus lubenter coenito! Musca sum”.


The next malacological illustration is on print I:7. The snail in the lower left part is too stylised to be identifiable. Texts are “Amicitijs non utendum ut flosculis, tamdiu gratis, quamidu recentibus”, and “Tam de invidis laboro quam de Rahis palus tribus” respectively.


On the next print (I:8), under the heading “Flos cinis”, a snail is seen in the lower-left corner on top of an open string-pea. Being somewhat stylised, it may be the same (unknown) species as in I:3. The bottom line reads “lilia agros, virtusque viros, coelum as tra coronant: / ut leo vir fortis dulce et amare bibit”.


I:9 shows prominently a slug; to me this appears a Limax species. The heading reads “Ipsa dies aperit: conficit ipsa dies”, the bottom line is absent.


The last print in the first series (I:12) has the profile of a snail on the right border; it is too stylised to be identifiable. The texts are “Regem locustae non habent, et egreditur vniversa per/ turmas suas. pro: 28”, and “Quod in fructibus humor, hoc in hominibus est amor” respectively.


The tile page of part II has the heading “Alia voce pfittacus, alia coturnix loquitur”, and at the bottom “Praerit illa dies, nescitur origo secundi / an labor, an requies, sic tuasit glia mudi”. A large bouquet of flowers in an ornamented vase (prologue of later still lifes) in the centre; a snail is visible on the cord hanging from the heading text. This is a very stylised specimen with two tentacles.


In the centre of print II:2 is snail is entwined on the stem of a rose. It is somewhat stylised but the general shape reminds me of a Cepaea– or Arianta-like species. The heading is “AETERNVM FLORIDA VIRTVS”, the bottom line reads “Mirabae, selerem fugitina aetate rapinam / et dum nascuntur, consenuisse Rosas”.


Under the heading “Tarantula” a snail is seen at the bottom near the text “Virtutem terribilium tuorum dicent generationes. psa: 144”. The shell of nearly 4 whorls looks similar to those in I:3 and I:8.


This print (II:6) could have acted as a pattern book for still lifes painted by later artists. It shows a vase with flowers, with a snail ‘on the move’ on the right-hand side in the direction of the viewer. The shell is somewhat stylised, but may have been inspired by a Cepaea or Arianta species. The heading reads “VNA HIRVNDO NON FACIT VER”, the text at the bottom is “Omnia VERE vigent, et VERIS tempore florent / et totus feruet veneris dulcedine mundus”.


The cycle of life might have been the intention of print II:8. The text at the top “NASCI. PATRI. MORI” suggests this. On the lily upper-left is a snail shown in upside-down position, his foot barely attached to the leaf; it could nearly tumble off it. The animal is stylised, the shell is drawn after an unidentifiable species. The bottom text is “Exanimat tenuis mures vt noxa salaces: / sic modico casu lubrica vita perit”.


Print II:11 starts with the heading “Omnis caro foenum, et omnis magnificentia eius. / sicut flos agri: Jsa: 40”. On top of a gherkin sits a snail with the head stretching out. The colour pattern recalls species from the family Helicidae, but hard to say what species they had at hand. The bottom line is in French: “Aux champs aultant quil ÿ at de fleurs / en amour aultant il ÿ at de douleurs”.


In the third part, print III:4 is entitled “AENIGMA”, while the text at the bottom says “Est mihi dura caro rugosa veste voluta, / Includor corij tegmine phoenicei, / Exterius natura hirto muniuit echino, / Mensam orno panis dum vice soluo famen”. At left, two snails – with a Cepaea-like or Arianta-like shape – are enjoying each other’s company…


The next print with a snail is III:6, where it clings to the stem of a rose at left. Somewhat stylised, it seem to have been modelled after the same species as in II:11. The heading reads “An gravius quicquam est, aut vilius, attamen ignis. / Hinc saliunt scatebrae fonticulique leues / SIC INCLYTA VIRTVS”. At the bottom in the centre the text “QVATVOR IN RERVM NATVRA ELEMENTA”, while in the corner at right “concha. / Anatifera vul: Branta. / et Bernicla”.


Print III:11 has a snail just off the centre to the right. The shell shows a spiral band and a number of streak-like dots; the overall-shape links it to the family Helicidae, possibly a Arianta species. The heading is “Sequitur ver hÿemem: Durate, atque expectate Cicadas”, while the bottom-line is “Haec mihi carta nuces, haec est mihi carta feitillus: / Alea nil damni, sed dabit ista Lucrum”.


The title page of the fourth part has as headings “VIVITVR INGENIO”, “CATERA MORTIS ERVNT”. Below the centre reference is made to Psalm 102 “FOENVM DIES EIVS. SICVT FLOS / AGRI SIC EFFLOREBIT”. The text at the bottom is split in two: “Heu quam abeunt celeri mortalia cursu: / Quam fluxa atque fugax humana est gloria Bulla”, and “Persimilis, qua loim summa turgeseit in vnda, / Mox perit, et vento exiguo dispulsa fatiscit”. Interestingly, the only correctly drawn (dextral) snail may be seen just left oiff the centre; it is very stylised.


Print IV:1 has a snail in the lower-left corner. The shape and the spiral line make this snail possibly a Cepaea- or Arianta-like one. The top lines read “Hoc variare, decus mundi est: haec gloria summi / Artificis”; the bottom ones “Omne quod Aeternus per verbum condidit auctor, / Autoris nomen celebret, laudesque resultet”.


AENIGMA” is the title of IV:5. At the lower left is a Conus sea shell, in the lower central part a slug; possibly a Arion species. The bottom texts is: “Exossis, pedibus cassus, non horreo spinis, / Proque oculis implent cornua bina vicem, / Exanguis, quaqua incedo tractu illino muccum, / Lethifer est mihi sal hostis, et exitium”.


The last print with land snails is IV:9. It has both a snail and an empty shell, which seem a species from the family Helicidae. The heading is “Qui cupit vt niteat varÿs cultissimus hortus / Flosculis, et patitur animum squallere, nec vllis / Artibus expoliat, huic est praepostera cura”. The bottom text reads “Forma brevis flos est primo spectabilis ortu / Mox languens fugiente die”.

More literature on this work of father and son Hoefnagel may be found here.

[1] BSB, [52 ff.]. Permalink: urn:nbn:de:bvb:12-bsb00087665-8.
[2] http://www.kunstkabinett-strehler.de/Informationen/Kunstler/Hoefnagel/1217268366.
[3] See also my post about the Gould hypothesis here.