The New Hollstein volume on Karel van Mander I is, as Christiaan Schuckman notes, ‘the first comprehensive monographic discussion of Van Mander’s involvement in printmaking’ (p. vii). As the prints record his original compositions, it is also a rich record of his creative activity. Its author, Marjolein Leesberg, built this extensive catalogue out of earlier lists of prints compiled by Elisabeth Valentiner and Hessel Miedema. Working from masters research on Van Mander as a painter [published in part in Simiolus, 22 (1993-94)], Leesberg has contributed a substantial introduction, focussing on Van Mander’s relationship to print patrons, engravers, authors and publishers, and the artistic and intellectual influences on his print compositions. The introduction situates Van Mander’s designs for printmaking among the graphic activities of his contemporaries in Haarlem (chiefly, Cornelis Ketel, Cornelis van Haarlem, Goltzius and his circle, Gillis van Breen) and explores his connections with the engravers and publishers working in Amsterdam, Leiden and The Hague (Harmen Muller, Jacques de Gheyn and Hendrick Hondius).
Many interesting observations are made along the way: for example, that Cornelis Ketel’s allegories express ideas that resurface in Van Mander’s theoretical writings (p. xvi). One hopes that the author will explore this issue in a separate publication. To give another example, Danzig was the site for publishing a Dutch bible that was illegal in the Low Countries (p. xxxix). This is a point worthy of reflection, given the degree to which Netherlandish art history follows modern political and cultural boundaries.
Follwing the introduction are two appendices that move this volume beyond the ordinary domain of print catalogues. One is an illustrated discussion of Van Mander’s surviving drawings for prints. This is an all-too-rare addition to a print catalogue but such an important contribution, because it not only helps us in formulating a picture of Van Mander as a draftsman, but it is also so valuable for those who study drawings made for engravings. The other appendix contains transcriptions and translations of the print inscriptions, making accessible texts which are not always legible, even in the finest photoreproductions. However, here and there, small errors surface: for example, Latro (p. lxv, no. no. 27) means thief, not murderer; and virtus (p. lxxv, no. 96), with its all-encompassing connotations of moral excellence, is translated here as ‘courage.’ It is an issue to be aware of when working with students on this material.
The author was unable to travel through much of this project, but the coverage of European collections is very good, thanks to her extensive correspondence with colleagues. Jerusalem is also included, as well as two East Coast US collections. However, other important US collections, such as the Philadelphia Museum and the New York Public Library, are not included.
St. Lawrence University