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Cornelis Visscher II (Haarlem 1628/29-1658 Amsterdam)

Pallas Athena, after Parmigianino

engraving, indistinct (armorial?) watermark
40.1 x 27.1 cm (sheet); 39.6 x 26.5 cm (plate)
Hollstein 38, first state (of four) [1], a very good and richly inked impression, small margins

The prints by the prolific engraving Cornelis Visscher II were sought after and celebrated during his lifetime, but it was in the 18th century that his work received particularly high praise. In 1751, Robert Hecquet published a first catalogue of Visscher’s prints as a supplement to his catalogue of prints after Rubens and in 1767 Pierre-François Basan stated that Visscher’s engraving style was an example to all who wished to learn the technique. [2] Visscher’s graphic œuvre was furthermore described in the 19th century by Willem Smith (1864) and Joseph Wusin (1865).

The artist’s brilliant engraving-technique can be observed in this large and well-preserved print showing Pallas Athena. Cornelis Visscher gives the godess, who is associated with wisdom, warfare, and handicraft an almost sculptural quality and metallic or silvery patina through his skillful use of the burin. The print reproduces a painting by Parmigianino which was part of the famous collection of the brothers Gerard and Jan Ryenst in Amsterdam and which was acquired by the States of Holland and West Friesland and presented to Charles II in 1660 and is now in the Royal Collection [3] (fig. 1). It was published as part of a suite of 34 prints after pictures from the Reynst cabinet known as the CAELATUAE [4], which, due to the absence of a testament or inventory of the collection, forms a crucial source in reconstructing this important collection. The project was probably started in 1655 by Gerard Ryenst who commissioned Cornelis II van Dalen, Jeremias Falck, Cornelis Holsteyn, Jan Lutma, Theodoor Matham and Visscher to reproduce highlights from his collection. When Gerard Reynst died in 1658, the project was unfinished but the prints were eventually published in Amsterdam in the latter part of the 1660s. [5]

Fig. 1. Parmigianino, Pallas Athena, oil on canvas, 64 x 45.4 cm, Royal Collection, Windsor.

[1] C. Schuckman, Hollstein’s Dutch & Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, ca. 1450-1700, volume XL, Cornelis de Visscher- Lambert Visscher, Roosendaal, 1992.
[2] ibid., p. 5
[3] RCIN 405765
[4] A.-M. Logan, The ‘cabinet’ of the brothers Gerard and Jan Reynst, Amsterdam, Oxford and New York, 1979, p. 37.
[5] ibid., p 39.

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