Death Appearing to a Wedded Couple from an Open Grave

1606 Leiden Amsterdam 1669

Death Appearing to a Wedded Couple from an Open Grave 1639

drypoint and etching; 109 x 78 mm

Bartsch 109, White/Boon only state; Hind 65; New Hollstein 174, only state

William Bell Scott, London (Lugt 2607);
his sale, Sothebys, London, April 20, 1895, lot 701
Alfred Gabriel Hubert, Paris (Lugt 130);
his sale, Drouot (exp. A. Danlos), Paris, May 2529, 1909, lot 702, described as Superbe preuve dune pice que lon trouve gnralement faible; petite marge. Col.on Scott
Richard Zinser, Stuttgart and New York (Lugt 5581)
Joost Ritman (b. 1941), Amsterdam (acquired in 1989)
Artemis Fine Arts, Ltd./Sothebys, London, by 1995
private collection, US (acquired in 2004)

Although the themes of love and death were very popular in seventeenth-century Dutch art, the motifs were usually disguised. This very direct confrontation harks back to such earlier representations as Drers Promenade (Meder 83). Accordingly, the figures themselves are clothed in sixteenth-century costume and seem to be amused rather than frightened by the skeleton before them.

This is an extraordinarily good impression of a delicately wrought plate, with all the very finest lines intact (see, for instance, the lightest lines of her flowing hair, and the proving marks below the borderline), with touches of burr, especially towards the bottom. In later impressions, the sharpness of the lines diminishes, the finest lines break or even disappear. Esdailes impression, now at the Metropolitan, is better than the Morgans, but again there are no light scratches below the border, the hair is weak and there is no burr.

Such is the quality of line, in fact, that the characteristics of both this and the other impressions lead one to suspect that the print may be wholly executed in drypoint.

Even early commentators in the eighteenth century have described this print as rare.

[Note: I’m indebted to colleague Armin Kunz for these notes on this fine print]