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Pieter Jalhea Furnius

(called Dufour, circa 1545–1626, Liège)

The Seven Vices and the Seven Virtues. Seven engravings, each measuring circa 25.7 x 19.4 cm. Hollstein 24–30. Watermark: Bull’s head.

Pieter Furnius studied under Lambert Lombard in Liège. From 1563 to 1571 he worked as an engraver for the well-known Antwerp publishers, Christopher Plantin and Hieronymus Cock. During the heyday of Mannerism in Antwerp Furnius produced a series of engravings modelled on works by Pieter Bruegel, Michel Coxie, Johannes Stradanus and other prominent masters of his time as well as several prints derived from his own imagination, of which this impressive and very rare cycle of The Seven Vices and the Seven Virtues is an illustration.

The series is an absolute masterpiece of Flemish Mannerism and is distinguished by its extremely complex and evocative iconography in which a deep sense of religiousness is combined with humanistic erudition. Furnius succeeds in creating highly expressive and original imagery. A good example is provided by Chastity, who crushes Amor’s bow with a powerful gesture while using her feet to keep the boy under control on the ground. A characteristic feature of Furnius’ style is his forceful, occasionally cumbersome yet highly expressive engraving technique in which thematic borrowings from Italian Renaissance art blend with a northern wealth of detail. Thus Chastity in her statuesque monumentality appears indebted to a Michelangelesque figurative canon. Showing a Flemish sense of genre-like detail, the artist has evocatively characterised in this cycle the innumerable meaningful attributes, the richly varied clothing of the allegorical figures and details of the terrain and the land­scape. Despite the disciplined manner of the engraving technique the prints radiate pathos and narrative drama.

Very fine, harmonious and contrasting impressions with wide, even margins. Minor paper discolouration and foxing, minor defects, otherwise in very good condition.

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