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COLLAERT, Adriaen (c.1560 - 1618)

PISCIUM VIVAE ICONES. In aes incise et editae ab Adriano Collardo. Antwerpen, c. 1598. An attractive set of eleven hand-coloured copperplate engravings in passe-partouts in attractive wooden frames (each 35.5 x 30.5 including, and 20 x 15.5 cm without the frame).

First edition. Engraved and published by Adriaen Collaert, [Antwerp, c. 1598]. Ten landscapes with depictions of fish and one decorative title page from Adriaen Collaert’s series of prints Piscium vivae icones. One of the great commercial successes of this well-known Flemish engraver, who succeeded in reputation even his teacher and father in law Philip Galle. The entire series consisted of 26 engravings including a title-page, which were sometimes sold as a set and sometimes separately. Gilt-heightened copies with original colour such as these are very rare. Although some coloured copies are known, unlike this one those tend to be heightened in Arabic gum and coloured using cheap pigments. Generally these are later states of the engravings. Our engravings are from the first state and first edition of the set, as is clear from the inscription on the title page, which reads ‘in aes incisae et editae ab Adriano Collardo’ (engraved in copper and published by Adriaan Collaert). A similar leaf with a title page on birds Avium Vivae Icones, in aes incise & editae ab Adriano Collardo, is present in the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.  Joyce Zelen from the catalogue department confirmed the presence of such gilt-heightened accents in this engraving (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, object RP-P-1997-86). The first edition was the only one which was engraved and published by Collaert himself. The second edition was produced, and the plates reworked, by Collaert’s brother in law Theodoor Galle, who added his name to the title page and numbered the up to then unnumbered copper plates. The third and last edition was produced by Collaert’s sons Jan and Carel. The first editions of Collaerts work are extremely scarce and far superior to others. Collaert catered to the demands of the popular culture of his time and his prints were highly sought after. Copies were produced in Paris by Peter Firens, in Utrecht by Crispijn de Passe, in Venice by Justus Sadeler and in Amsterdam by Nicolaes Visscher.

Rare original colouring of copper engravings, heightening in gilt.

Fish, shells, crustaceans, and turtles are depicted in fictitious, romantic, landscapes inspired by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. The landscapes appear to present an overview of the role aquatic species played in the economy of the Low Countries, featuring fishermen’s boats, fish being caught, fish markets, fish being salted and placed in barrels, and limekilns. Although some marine species are depicted, the engravings show mostly freshwater species. A number of fish are not anatomically correct, which in some cases may be meant to be entertaining and in some cases may be a simple mistake. Overall though, the depictions are true to life and the physical characteristics needed to determine the species are clearly depicted. The study of nature received much attention in the sixteenth century, not only because of practical motives such as the improvement of medicine and agriculture but also because of religious motives, in the sense that to study nature was to study creation and therefore the creator. This led to a stream of publications on all types of animals and also found it’s way into popular culture which meant publishers started producing sets of animal depictions such as these. Although it is often assumed that in such depictions the scientific accuracy of the depictions was less important, these engravings feature depictions copied from renowned naturalists as well as images which appear to be original and which were later reproduced in scientific publiciations. The majority of the depicted species were copied from the works of contemporaries including famous naturalists such as Pierre Belon, Hipolito Salviani, Guillaume Rondelet, and Conrad Gessner. Others are either original or were copied after an unknown source, but are also good scientific depictions. This is confirmed by the fact these were often reproduced in later scholarly works, such as that of Willughby and Ray. In addition Collaert adds Latin and often binominal, rather than local, names to his depictions.
In the background many ships are depicted, most of which were copied from a series of prints known as the Sailing Vessels, executed by Frans Huys after designs by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. Most of the engravings show a battleship accompanying a fishermen’s fleet, and most often these battleships bear the flag of the Geuzen, the confederacy of malcontents who during the 80-year war opposed Spanish rule in the Low Countries. Some of the vessels also carry the Dutch national flag. These are references to a national policy of the Republic of the United Netherlands to have battleships join fishermen’s fleets in order to protect the fishing industry from attacks by Spanish troops. These targeted fishermen’s vessels in order to undermine the economy of their opponent which heavily relied on fishing. Collaert’s native Flanders remained under Spanish rule, and consequently these prints also reference to the negative effects Flanders suffered from Dutch warfare policies, such as the blocking of the Antwerp harbour. Interestingly these engravings were published during the 12-year truce between Spain and the Netherlands, from 1609 to 1721, which ironically led to more frequent attacks on Fishermen. Impoverished Flemish hijackers, now no longer employed by the Spanish army and in need of an income, saw no alternative but to now attack Dutch fishermen on their own initiative. The battleships accompanying fishermen’s boats therefore remained an everyday sight.

Our set consists of:


1.    A decorative title page of the first edition of Adriaan Collaert’s  Piscium vivae icones. Beautifully coloured in bright red’s and blues and with many elements heightened in gilt. With title in cartouche and underneath the title the inscription in aes incisae et editae ab Adriano Collardo (engraved in copper and published by Adriaan Collaert). This confirms this is the first edition of the set, the second edition was reworked by Collaert’s brother in law Theodoor Galle who also added his name to the title page, while the third edition was reworked and published by Collaert’s sons Jan and Carel. With many allegorical depictions, elements of which are copied from famous naturalist works of the time. Above the title cartouche a depiction of Neptune with two seahorses, based on those from the work of the French naturalist Pierre Belon and consequently depicted as horses with fish tails. Putti are depicted in each of the four corners. Those at bottom right and bottom left are riding marine turtles whilst holding tridents and marine snakes. Those at top right and top left are holding fishing nets and large shells. At bottom centre two marine snakes have been depicted which were copied from the zoological encyclopaedia of Conrad Gessner. Across the page many different types of fish, crustaceans, and shells have been depicted.

2.    A scene with in the background a fleet consisting of a large battle ship and smaller fishermen’s vessels. The battleship flies the flag of the Geuzen, a smaller vessel bears the Dutch national flag. Fisherman are gathering fish in their nets while a large fish appears to flee the scene in distress. Three small towns and a number of churches are depicted on the shore. Four disproportionally large fish, as well as several shells and a starfish are depicted on the beach, several of these were copied from works by famous contemporary naturalists. Many of the shells are heightened in gilt. The Latin names of the fish, in one case binominal, are indicated. From left to right and top to bottom these are Alosa (an allis shad, Alosa alosa), Manula (a corkwing wrasse, Crenilabrus melops), Acipenser (a sturgeon, Acipenser sturio), and Apua cobitis (a spined loach, Cobitis taenia).  Both the allis shad and the sturgeon were copied after woodcuts from the work of the French scholar Guillaume Rondelet and appear mirrored from the original woodcuts. This depiction of the allis shad also featured in Conrad Gessner’s encyclopaedia of animals. The shells are based on depictions by Rondelet, while the source of the starfish, the corkwing wrasse and the spined loach remains unknown. Those may therefore be original depictions.

3.    A scene with in the background a fishermen’s fleet consisting of larger and small vessels, and two groups of anglers on the shore are casting their lines. The sun is depicted as it either sets or rises and is heightened in gilt, as are several of the shells which are depicted on the beach. Several churches and houses depicted on the shore. Two of the ships fly Geuzen flags, a smaller ship carries a type of barrel which was used for preserving herring. On the beach four, again disproportionally large, fish are depicted, as well as a number of shells, some of which very large. The Latin names of the fish, in two cases binominal, are indicated. From left to right and top to bottom these are, Faber marinus (a John Dory, Zeus faber), Halec (a herring, Clupea harengus), Gabio (a gudgeon, Gobio gobio), and the fictitious Acipenser zeelandicus (a made-up species with two dorsal fins). The John Dory appears to be based on woodcuts from the works of Pierre Belon and Guillaume Rondelet. A large gilt-heightened shell at the centre is copied from Rondelet’s work and appears mirrored in relation to the original, as happens when copperplates are engraved after a model. The gudgeon was copied from the work of Belon and also appears mirrored. Many of the other shells appear to have been copied from the work of Guillaume Rondelet.

4.    Scene with a large battleship flying the Geuzen-flag and firing it’s cannons at an invisible opponent, who should be somewhere to the right from the depicted scene. In the meantime fishermen continue fishing around it. The cannon fire is gilt-heightened. Villages and several churches are depicted on the shore, as well as what appears to be a limekiln, expelling large clouds of smoke through a chimney. On the beach in the foreground four large fish are depicted, as well as a great number of shells, many of which are heightened in gilt. The Latin names of the fish are indicated above the depictions. From left to right and top to bottom these are Admos (a garfish, Belone belone), Trompete (a Broadnosed pipefish, Syngnathus typhle), Rhombus (a brill, Scophthalmus rhombus), and Passer (a turbot, Scophthalmus rhombus maximus). Many of the depicted shells are copied after woodcuts from the work of Guillaume Rondelet. However it appears the fish may be original depictions.

5.    A wooded coastal landscape, coloured mostly in blue and green, with in the foreground one unusually large lobster, a large fish, and several other crustaceans and shells which are depicted on the beach. Several fisherman’s boats are depicted in the background, the fishermen all wearing bright red shirts and blue hats. The arms of one and the scarf of another fisherman have been heightened in gilt. Unusually in this series of engravings, no large battleship is accompanying the fishermen. On the shore several villages and churches are depicted, as well as a large watermill. The Latin names of the lobster and fish on the beach have been added to the depiction. These are, from left to right, Cammarus (a common lobster, Homarus gammarus), and Lingulaca (a common sole, Solea solea). The crabs and shells depicted alongside these species have not been named. The shells are copied from woodcuts from the work of Guillaume Rondelet. The lobster and sole may be original depictions.

6.    A coastal landscape with in the foreground several disproportionally large fish, and in the background several fishermen’s boats which are protected by large battleships. The battleships are decorated in gilt, and in orange, red, white and blue in reference to the Dutch national colours. The largest of the ships flies the Dutch national flag, a smaller one a Geuzen-flag. Fishermen are gathering fish in large nets. On the shore a village and a town, as well as several churches and a watermill are depicted. On the beach four fish and a number of shells are shown, many of the shells heightened in gilt. The Latin names of the fish, in two cases binominal, have been added to the depiction. From left to right and from top to bottom these are Gladius piscis (a swordfish, Xiphias gladius), Galeus piscis (a cat shark, Scyliorhinus spec.), Mugil (a thicklip grey mullet, Chelon labrosus), and Araneus (a lesser weever, Echiichthys vipera). The shells depicted around the fish are mostly copied from the work of Guillaume Rondelet. The cat shark and the mullet are also copied from Rondelet. The latter appears mirrored in relation to the original, as happens when a copperplate is engraved after a model. However the cat shark is not mirrored, indicating it may have been copied from another copy. Another swordfish and another cat shark are depicted in the sea, among the fishermen’s fleet.

7.    A peaceful scene with fishermen on small vessels and on the shore fishing with nets and lines. Unusually for this series, no battleships are depicted here. On the shore a farmer is driving his cows over a road while a shepherd plays his flute to a flock of sheep and a woman carries a gilded pot on her head.  Several of the depicted figures have been gilt-heightened. A number of brightly coloured bluebells are visible in the foreground and three swans are crossing the river in procession. Considering when these engravings were produced, this tranquillity may reflect popular hopes for the 12-year truce, although in reality fishermen still suffered attacks during this time, and the population still suffered under economic decline. Three large fish have been depicted on the shore, according to the inscriptions each types of Carpio (carp). This notwithstanding only the one on the top left is a carp (Cyprinus carpio). The species depicted at top and bottom right are unidentifiable and do not exist.

8.    A fictitious mountainous landscape with aqueducts just left from the centre and near the top right corner, and with several clusters of houses and churches, the roofs coloured in an attractive blue. A small windmill is prominently shown at the centre of the depiction. Several fishermen’s boats are depicted, one of them carrying a type barrel used for preserving herring. The arms of many of the fishermen are heightened in gilt. The battleships which Collaert often depicts alongside fishermen’s vessels are not present here. As applies to the engraving described above, such a peaceful scene may be a reference to popular hopes for the 12-year truce. In the foreground several large crustaceans are depicted; for three of these Latin names have been added to the depiction. From left to right these are Squilla (a common European prawn, Crangon crangon), Cancer (a common crab, Carcinus maenas) shown upside down, and Cancer (another common crab) shown upside up. In the bottom left corner a large lobster (Homarus gammarus) is depicted. The crustaceans are surrounded by gilt-heightened pebbles and shells. The prawn is copied from a woodcut from the work of the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner.

9.    In the background fishermen’s boats are depicted and fishermen are casting their nets and pulling them in. A large battleship flying Geuzen-flags protects the fishermen. The battleship is partly heightened in gilt, as are the arms of the fishermen. A limekiln expelling large clouds of smoke is depicted at top left. As lime was produced from shells these were a common sight in coastal villages. In the foreground four large fish are depicted lying on a beach. Their Latin names have been added to the depiction, from left to right and top to bottom these are Mugil (a two-wing flying fish, Exocoetus volitans), Hirundo (a fictitious species), Mustela (a three-bearded rockling, Gaidropsarus vulgaris) , and Thimalus (a grayling, Thymallus thymallus). The two-wing flyingfish was copied after a woodcut from the work of the French naturalist Pierre Belon, while the fictitious Hirundo and the three-bearded rockling are copied after woodcuts from the work of Guillaume Rondelet. The latter two appear mirrored in relation to the original, as is normal when copperplates are made after a model. The flyingfish does not appear mirrored, indicating it was copied after another source, which was copied from Rondelet’s work. The four fish are surrounded by pebbles and shells, many of which are gilt-heightened.

10.    A tranquil scene with in the background two fishermen’s boats on a calm river. The arms of the fishermen are heightened in gilt. On the shore blue and red flowers have been depicted. The main focus of this engraving are four aquatic species shown in the foreground, none of which are ‘ordinary’ fish. An eel, a conger, two turtles, and a blowfish are lying on the shoreline. For four of these Latin names have been added to the depiction. The blowfish was most likely deemed so recognisable and well-known it needn’t be named. The named species are, from left to right and top to bottom, Anguilla (a European eel, Anguilla anguilla), Congrus (a European conger, Conger conger), Testudo (most likely a European pond turtle, Emys orbicularis), and Testudo marina (a type of marine turtle). In the early seventeenth century all aquatic animals were considered to be fish, however a distinction was still made between those species which we nowadays still consider fish and other species which happen to live in aquatic environments. This depiction shows a collection of species which the author felt fall into the latter category. Both the conger and the blowfish were copied after woodcuts from the work of Guillaume Rondelet. The conger appears mirrored in relation to the original, as is normal when copperplates are made after models, but the blowfish is not mirrored. This indicates the latter image may be copied after another copy of Rondelet’s woodcut.

11.     Scene with a fishermen’s fleet consisting of several sailing ships flying Geuzen-flags and a number of rowing boats carrying barrels used for preserving herring. The flags and the arms of the fishermen are heightened in gilt. In the background several clusters of houses and a town are shown amongst a fictitious landscape. In the foreground four large fish are lying on the shore. For all of them Latin names have been added to the depiction. From left to right and top to bottom these are Barbus (a barbell, Barbus barbus), Fundulus (a stone loach, Noemacheilus barbatulus), Brama (a common bream, Abramis brama), and Perca (a European perch, Perca fluviatilis). The barbell is copied after a woodcut from the work of Conrad Gessner’s encyclopaedia of animals and appears mirrored in relation to the original. The other fish might be original drawings. Several flowers, coloured in red and heightened in gilt, are depicted around the fish.

Price: € 25.000,00

Copyright: 2015 Sophia Hendrikx, all rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior permission of the author

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