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Jan Saenredam

(1565 Zaandam – 1607 Assendelft)

The Seven Planets. Seven engravings after Hendrick Goltzius. Each approx. 25.3 x 17.8 cm. Leesberg (New Hollstein, after Goltzius) 657 III (of VI), 658–662, each I (of II). Watermark: Strasbourg coat of arms with lilies.

The Series of the Seven Planets follows the iconographical tradition of the planetary gods and planetary children. Along with ancient pagan stellar beliefs, elements of ancient mythology and divine iconography were passed down throughout the Middle Ages in astrological manuscripts, block books and calendars. From the sixth century B.C. the planets bore the names of ancient godheads. According to astrological teaching, planetary children born under the influence of a certain planet and constellation were characterised by corresponding qualities, activities or professions. Ever since the late 15th century, for instance in the works of Marten van Heemskerck and Maarten de Vos, it had been the custom in series of prints for the respective godhead to be depicted in a chariot in his celestial orbit, while the planetary children went about their activities on earth. 

Goltzius’ fundamental iconographical innovation was to place the gods as statues on pedestals in the landscape surrounded by planetary children dressed in contemporary attire (cf. Ilja M. Veldman, “Antike Götter als Planeten und ihr Einfluss auf die Erdbewohner”, in: catalogue Hendrick Goltzius – Mythos, Macht und Menschlichkeit, Petersberg/Dessau 2017, p. 142 f.). The children of Saturn as the god of agriculture are peasants bringing in the harvest, Jupiter rules over the sciences or artes liberales, Apollo over rulers, Venus over the art of love, Mars over warriors, Mercury over the fine and rhetorical arts and Luna over fishing and seafaring. Goltzius also set new priorities in the sequence of the planets, which – according to knowledge at the time – begins here with Saturn as the planet furthest away from earth, and in the characterisation of the planetary children. Thus not only is a painter to be found among the children of Mercury, but there is also a draughtsman at the feet of Jupiter, whom Goltzius uses to put art as an intellectual activity on the same level as the artes liberales. Above these earthly scenes, beneath which are Latin verses by the Haarlem humanist, Cornelius Schonaeus, the relevant constellations and planetary symbols are visible in the sky. Goltzius’ planetary images have an imposing presence thanks both to the invention of the earthly statues of gods and to the spatial composition, which puts the observer on a visual par with the planetary children. Saenredam’s brilliant technique gives them a superb harmony and elegance. The complete series is on offer in very fine impressions with wide margins. Slight handling traces in the white margins, minor foxing, otherwise in excellent condition.

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