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Pieter Jalhea Furnius

(called Dufour, circa 1545–1626, Liège)

The Annunciation. Engraving. 27.7 x 20.7 cm. Hollstein 5. Water­mark: Large Bull’s Head.

Pieter Furnius studied under Lambert Lombard in Liège. From 1563 to 1571 he worked as an engraver in the famous publishing company run by Christopher Plantin in Antwerp, where his services were also engaged by the publisher Hieronymus Cock. This was the heyday of Mannerism in Antwerp and Furnius produced an output of engravings based on originals by Pieter Brueghel, Michel Coxie, Johannes Stradanus and other prominent masters of his time as well as several works after his own inventions, as illustrated by the present piece. Research into his printed oeuvre is patchy and the list of his works in the Hollstein catalogue requires thorough revision. The hallmark of Furnius’ work is a sturdy, slightly cumbersome yet very expressive engrav­ing technique, in which he combines motifs taken from Italian Renaissance art with a Nordic abundance of detail. Hence the statuesque monumentality of the Madonna would do credit to a figure fashioned by Michelangelo. Displaying
a fine Flemish meticulousness to detail, the artist has accurately depicted minor items such as the sewing materials on the bench, the straw basket and the modest furnishings in Mary’s dwelling. The disciplined engraving technique notwithstand­ing, the work is full of pathos and narrative drama. The celestial sphere is at one with the profane world of the Virgin’s home. Descending majestically from a bright, clouded sky peopled by little angels, the graceful Angel of the Annunciation enters the scantily furnished room to bring Mary the news of her forthcoming conception of Christ.

A superb, harmonious and contrasting impression with large, even margins. In excellent, unrestored condition.

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