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Antonie Wierix

(circa 1552 – 1624?, Antwerp)

Portrait of Guilielmus Fabius. Engraving. 16.7 x 12.6 cm. Alvin 1898; Mauquoy-Hendrickx 1805.

This small portrait of a scholar is remarkable for its succinct psychological characterisation and the truly masterful treatment of the subject. It shows the Antwerp engraver, Antonie Wierix, at the apex of his art. His highly sophisticated, extremely refined engraving technique would be inconceivable without the example set by Albrecht Dürer, who exerted a crucial stylistic influence on both Antonie and his brothers, Hieronymus and Johan, throughout their lives. There is very little difference between the three brothers as regards their skill and artistic language, which occasionally makes it difficult to ascertain who produced which work. The small portraits, in particular, stand out for their technical mastery and rank among the most artistically sophisticated of their works.

Portrayed here in half-length figure is the scholar and classical philologist, Guilielmus Fabius, who taught from 1578 to 1590 at the Collegium Trilingue in Leuven, a private humanist foundation devoted to the study of Latin, Greek and Hebrew. Fabius is shown wearing a precious doublet embroidered with silk and velvet, which reflects his social standing. He gazes thoughtfully into the distance with a spiritual expression on his face, his right hand resting on a skull. The motto “Asylum meum deus” is a reference to his deep religiousness. This may well be a commemorative, posthumous portrait, Fabius having been killed during student unrest in Leuven in 1590. A splendid, crisp impression with delicate plate tone and even thread margins. Minimal foxing, otherwise in superb, pristine condition.

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