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Christoffel van Sichem

(1546–1624, Amsterdam)

Half-length Portrait of a Man with Feathered Beret and Glove. Woodcut after Hendrick Goltzius. 31 x 21 cm. 1607. Bartsch III, 126, 3; Hollstein 135.

Christoffel van Sichem, son of the bookseller Cornelis Karelsz. who hailed from Sichem (Brabant), was briefly active in Antwerp in the 1560s, subsequently living and working in Basle, where he remained from about 1568 to 1597. Even as a young man van Sichem had worked in the woodcut medium, as is documented by a number of book illustrations for Straßburger Drucke (see Hollstein 140–147). In 1598 the artist moved to Amsterdam; in 1603 he is known to have been temporarily in Leiden, before settling down in Amsterdam again the following year. In this period van Sichem turned once again with success to the woodcut and created a few masterpieces in this medium, which in their mastery of forms and technical treatment differ markedly from his early work and occupy an absolutely unique position in Dutch printmaking of the early 17th century. Some of these works are based on models by Hendrick Goltzius, so it may be assumed that these woodcuts are the result of a direct collaboration with that master. In the years between 1599 and 1608 Goltzius had drawn a group of fantasy portraits, which are treated in a quasi archaic stylistic language inspired by Dürer and Lucas van Leyden. The present woodcut also derives from such a drawing by Goltzius, van Sichem’s senior by more than ten years. The portrait, which previously had been mistaken for a likeness of Otto Heinrich von Schwarzenberg, shows a respectably clad elderly man in the costume of the early 16th century. In a congenial and sensitive way van Sichem has translated the powerful lines of the drawing into the robust medium of the woodcut. His style is never monotonous, but vivid and varied, achieving a maximum of compositional concentration and graphical refinement on a small format.

A splendid, luminous and perfectly even impression with margins. Minimal aging, an inconspicuous flattened drying fold on the verso, otherwise an excellently preserved print of museum quality.

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