ublished in Antwerp with text by Geeraerdt van Wolsschaten (1603 - 1660).
The two editions contain very different illustrations.
|The countess, laterally inversed copy.|
his book starts with a well executed fronticpiece (to the left). The book itself consists of 18 chapters, and the title promises that these 18 chapters are "adorned by the clever pictures by the famous painter Hans Holbein": »verciert met de constighe Belden van den vermaerden Schilder Hans Holbeen«.
This is partially true, and in this book we see, how Holbein's famous woodcuts ended their days.
The 18 pictures are a mixed batch. Douce divides them into 14 genuine Holbein-woodcuts and 4 other, child, pope, emperor and countess, which he calls »copies, and very badly engraved«.(1)
I don't fully agree with that: Pope, emperor and countess are clearly (mirror-inversed) copies, although they are not as bad as Douce indicates. The woodcut with the child is of a far higher quality and is adorned by a little woodcutter's mark in the shape of a woodcutter's knife: .
The woodcut with the old man is adorned with the same woodcutter-knife. Both of these woodcuts look a bit more "ugly" than they did in 1538, but this could be caused by damage and repair. Both are very detailed and if the child is a copy, then the old man is one too.
Some of the genuine Holbein-woodcuts have been marked with a combined S and A: This could be the mark of a new owner or someone who had repaired the woodcuts. The mark is very reminiscent of the mark on some of Birckmanns copies of Holbein.
When reading Douce one gets the impression that he thinks it was the same woodcutter. First he writes (page 109): »XI. In 1654 a Dutch work appeared with the following title, "De Doodt vermaskert met swerelts ydelheyt afghedaen […] The blocks of the originals appear to have fallen into the hands of an artist, who probably resided at Antwerp, and several of them have his mark, , concerning which more will be said under one of the ensuing articles«.
And on page 113 he returns, as promised, to this artist when expounding on Birckmann: »V. "Imagines Mortis, his accesserunt epigrammata è Gallico idiomate à Georgio Æmylio in Latinum translata, &c. Coloniæ apud hæredes Arnoldi Birckmanni, anno 1555. […] The cuts are by the artist mentioned in No. IX. of those originals, whose mark is which is here found on five of them«.
Warthin(2) seems to agree with Douce — both concerning the number of genuine woodcuts and the artist (page 71): »In 1654 under the title "De Doodt vermaskert" […] This contained 18 woodcuts, 14 of which were the original blocks retouched, preserved for more than a century after their first use. The other 4 engravings were very poor copies. As 7 of these blocks had the monogram as (thought to be Ant. Sylvius), they probably were blocks used for the Birkmann edition of 1555.«
In spite of this consensus among experts, it still sounds very unlikely that the man, who had created his own Holbein-copies in Cologne in 1555 should reappear in Antwerp a 100 years later in 1654 to add his mark on the genuine cuts.
n the 1698-edition all the woodcuts were gone: The genuine Holben-woodcuts, the copies and the frontispiece. Instead Geeraerdt van Wolsschaten's text was illustrated with new copperplates.
There's not much to say about the copperplates. They are quite bland, and one wonders what happened to the old woodcuts. The picture of the pedler (to the left) has been combined with the backgound from the soldier.
Footnotes: (1) (2)
»This edition contains eighteen cuts, among which the following subjects are from the original blocks. 1. Three boys. 2. The married couple. 3. The pedlar. 4. The shipwreck. 5. The beggar. 6. The corrupt judge. 7. The astrologer. 8. The old man. 9. The physician. 10. The priest with the eucharist. 11. The monk. 12. The abbess. 13. The abbot. 14. The duke. Four others, viz. the child, the emperor, the countess, and the pope, are copies, and very badly engraved«.