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Bust Portrait of a Young Man with Feathered Cap, holding a scroll in his right hand. Woodcut after Jacob Matham. 31.8 x 22 cm. 1613. Bartsch III, 212, 1; Hollstein 136.
Christoffel van Sichem, son of the bookseller Cornelis Karelsz. who had immigrated from Sichem (Brabant), worked briefly in Antwerp in the 1560s before moving to Basel, where he lived and worked from about 1568 to 1597. Already as a young man van Sichem had occupied himself with the woodcut medium, as is documented by a number of book illustrations for Strasbourg prints (see Hollstein 140–147). In 1598 the artist moved to Amsterdam. The sources show that he spent a brief spell in Leiden in 1603, but the following year he settled down in Amsterdam for good. In this period van Sichem again successfully devoted himself to the woodcut and created a number of masterpieces in this technique. Compared with his early efforts, these works reveal a mastery of form and treatment which gives them a special place in early 17th century Dutch printmaking. Several of these prints were done after inventions of Hendrick Goltzius, so it may be assumed that the woodblocks were made in direct cooperation with the master himself.
The model of this woodcut, on the other hand, was a drawing by Goltzius’ pupil and stepson Jacob Matham. Stylistically the portrait is extremely close to similar works of Goltzius’, as is shown for example by a comparison with the grandiose and roughly contemporary Portrait of a Young Man with Skull and Tulip (The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York). These are fantasy portraits treated in a somewhat archaic artistic idiom inspired by Dürer and Lucas van Leyden. The technical mastery of these so-called “Federkunststücke” is breathtaking and impressively demonstrates the enormously creative potential of the Goltzius school. The purpose of these pen-and-ink drawings was to imitate the typical linework of the Goltzius engraving style. This is very evident in the present woodcut, in which van Sichem has transposed his method of swelling tailles and dense parallel and cross-hatching to the woodcut medium. The portrayal has lost nothing of its freshness as a result. This charming portrait of a youth radiates vitality and an acute sense of the exotic, as shows a detail like the splendid feathered cap. Van Sichem has created an artistically worthy pendant to Matham’s original.
A very fine, even impression with wide margins. Minor soiling and signs of use, an inconspicuous flattened drying fold on the verso, otherwise in very good condition.