These and the following volumes reflect the Hollstein series’ significant contributions to the study of late sixteenth- to early seventeenth- century printmaking, with catalogues that are definitive for the artists whose works they present. This is not only because they give expansive, new coverage of artists whose catalogues appeared as earlier multi-artist volumes, but also because all of the volumes contain substantial introductions which revise our picture of the artists’ careers.
The three fully illustrated and carefully indexed volumes on Cornelis Cort give us a very different picture of this engraver from that presented by the original 1948 Hollstein volume (V: Cornelisz. – Dou), in which a list of 289 works, eleven of these illustrated, were sandwiched in among the catalogues of seven other figures. The current catalogue was compiled by Manfred Sellink with the help of Hans van der Windt and Sandra Tatsakis. Sellink began his work on Cort while at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. His catalogue for the 1994 exhibition at that museum was undoubtedly the most important contribution on the artist since the 1948 monograph by J.C.J. Bierens de Haan, who also compiled the first Hollstein volume. Additions to the literature on Cort have also come via publications on reproductive prints after Titian, the Zuccari, Polidoro da Caravaggio, and other sixteenth-century Italian artists. A leading figure in the era often regarded as the golden age of reproductive engraving, Cort was highly influential for Northern and Italian engravers of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. His engravings were also major vehicles for the dissemination of artistic ideas between Italy and Northern Europe.
Sellink’s catalogue has fully revised that of Bierens de Haan, and the engravings given to Cort (including tentative attributions) now number 235 items. These are fully illustrated, with thorough descriptions of states and editions. In several entries, detail photographs show inscriptions and signatures found in particular states and versions. The entries also make reference to a wider range of collections than is often found in this print catalogue series, including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Bologna, Florence, El Escorial, and Zagreb. In addition, Sellink and his assistants have made a careful survey of copies after Cort’s prints – and copies abound, with lists of six to ten in many cases. This is a striking set of data that not only reaffirms that we are not alone in our era of Napster.com appropriation, but also points to how important Cort’s prints were as study pieces for other engravers.
What emerges from the catalogue, however, is that Cort’s oeuvre is still in flux. The uneven character of the works tentatively attributed to Cort (part III, nos. 231-235) and the attributions given to the rejected prints (R 1-48) reveal how much more we need to learn about so many engravers from Cort’s time and the generation following. One example is cat. R 30, Saint Jerome in the Desert, which is in fact a drawn-upon proof state by Pieter de Jode I. De Jode spent much of the 1590s in Italy, tapping into the same imagery found in the works of other engravers in this larger group. Completed states, signed ‘Petrus de Iode fecit et excudit’ are found in the Metropolitan Museum and other collections. Finally, Cort’s preparatory drawings for a few prints are mentioned but not illustrated. Given how little has been published about his activity as a draftsman, it would have been useful to include plates of the drawings connected with prints.
St. Lawrence University