Monday, 9 June 2014

Old but not so valuable

67 X 104 mm. ca. 1601
The Holy Kinship; interior scene with
the Holy Family with the infant
sleeping in a cradle, under a canopy,
St Anne, St Elizabeth, the Infant 
St John
the Baptist and an angel 
with a cross and
other Passion 
instruments, to right.
Many years ago, in an antiques shop, I saw a room screen set with dozens of early seventeenth century Flemish religious engravings by Jerome Wierx (or Wierix).  The antique dealer thought that the screen would sell much better  if the religious prints were replaced with some botanical prints so I was able to buy the collection at about $2.50 each. That might sound like a bargain, but I have seen a number of such collections (by the same artist) with a pre-sale estimate of $4.00 each (and they mostly did not sell). I sold or gave away most of them, but still have a couple, somewhere.

The three Wierx brothers (Johann, Jerome and Anthony) are best known for their copies of Albrecht Dürer's engravings and those fetch considerably more. Popular with the Jesuits at the time, these small and highly detailed engravings formed the bulk of their output and were bought by people who could not afford paintings or drawings. The three brothers seemed mainly interested in making enough money to keep themselves drunk most of the time, and most notorious of all was Jerome. One day, his local barmaid told him that he had drank enough and refused to refill his flagon. Angered by this, he threw the vessels at her head and she died from her injury. He spent a little time in prison, but the Jesuits soon managed to get him freed and back to work.

The engravings had all been given wide false margins and were laid down on a large piece of paper which was glued with hide glue to a thick mounting card. After removing the heavy card, which was easy as the glue had not soaked into the card and was brittle, I cut them all out and floated each print in water until the layers separated. Then I dried them all under a little weight between two sheets of absorbent acid-free paper. Although it was my first attempt at paper conservation, it worked very well and there were no tears or ripples in the paper afterward. I preserved them all in acid-free holders designed for banknotes.

One of my main purposes in retaining a couple of them was to demonstrate that something can be more than four hundred years old and yet cost less than a meal at McDonald's!

No comments:

Post a Comment