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Hieronymus Wierix

(1553–1619, Antwerp)

The Four Fathers of the Church. Set of four engravings after Maarten de Vos, measuring 25.9 x 19 cm each. 1586. Alvin 751–754; Mauquoy-Hendrickx 982–985 I (of II); The New Hollstein 1238–1241 I (of II).

Like his elder brother Johannes, Hieronymus Wierix was mainly active as a reproductive engraver, although he also executed a number of prints after his own inventions. Hieronymus used a similar, technically sophisticated and refined engraving technique in the tradition of such illustrious predecessors as Albrecht Dürer and Lucas van Leyden. The engravings after designs by Maarten de Vos occupy a prominent place in the printed œuvre of the Wierix brothers. Most of these works were engraved by Hieronymus, who produced a total of 152 engravings after designs by the Flemish Romanist.

These portraits of the Four Fathers of the Church provide impressive proof that Hieronymus was a master of his art. The venerable saints are shown in full figure in their chambers, surrounded by numerous attributes that illustrate their status as doctores ecclesiae. Although the intricate engraving technique, with its very dense cross-hatching patterns, has a craftsmanlike perfection reminiscent of Albrecht Dürer, there is nothing austere or cold about it. Despite their technical virtuosity the scenes radiate human warmth and intimacy. A cherub opens the book of St. Augustine, at whose feet a little dog is dozing. The massive figure of St. Gregory with his long flowing beard is characterized with psychological mastery, while the portrait of St. Jerome is delight­ful for the way in which the individual objects in his room are rendered with all the meticulous precision of a still life. Despite the wealth of detail the portrayals never lapse into a genre-like fussiness, but are structured in a way that is refreshingly clear and monumental.

Superb, sharp and clear impressions with even margins around the platemark, before the cancellation of the date. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition.

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