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Johannes Sadeler the Elder

(1550 Brussels – ca. 1600 Venice)

Allegory of War with the Pillaging of a Farmstead. Engraving after Jost Amman. 24.6 x 26.3 cm. After 1584. Hollstein (J. Sadeler) 560; The New Hollstein (Amman) 215 I (of II).

The present “Allegory of War” is based on an original by the Swiss-German painter, draughtsman and printmaker, Jost Amman. It illustrates a motto from Chapter 56 of the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, which warns of the danger of false advice: “O my people / those who lead you / entice you / Your watchmen are all blind / dumb watchdogs / all unable to bark”.

Armed conflict is going on in a wide-ranging landscape. An armed man on horseback pursues a fleeing shepherd while another soldier kills one of his sheep. In the foreground stands a wagon loaded with booty; a chained watchdog lies motionless next to it and gives no assistance to the shepherd in distress, as is stated in the four-line verses at the bottom. This is a very rare first state of the allegory in which the depiction was engraved but the text in the lower text margin was printed from a separate wood block. In the second state, however, the scene was printed in just one printing process and the text was etched in imitation of a letterpress. Sadeler obviously found the combi­nation of engraving and letterpress printing too time-consuming and so opted for a simpler process. Gero Seelig knows of only two impressions from the first state, which are in the Berliner Kupferstichkabinett and the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel.

A very fine, even impression, minimally trimmed inside the platemark. Minor defects, otherwise in very good condition. From the collection of Pierre Mariette, 1680 (Lugt 1790).

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