L'adoration des Mages

L'adoration des Mages - pierre noire, sanguine, lavis gris et brun , avec inscription ‘Bellange’ (en bas à gauche)


Lot n° 42
28,7 x 20 cm 

Gravé en sens inverse par Crispijn de Passe l’Ancien (fig. 1; voir [Hollstein’s] Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, ca. 1450-1700, XV, Amsterdam, 1964, n° 87, ill.; A.N. Worthern et S.W. Reed, The Etchings of Jacques Bellange, cat. exp., Des Moines Art Center, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, et New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975-1976, n° 66, ill.).

This unpublished drawing relates to the Adoration of the Magi, one of nine compositions by Bellange engraved by Crispijn de Passe I (1564-1637) in Cologne around 1601 (I. Veldman, Crispijn de Passe and his Progeny (1564-1670). A Century of Print Production, Rotterdam, 2001, p. 54). There are several differences between the drawing and the print: of the three Magi, only the pose of the first, who presents his gift to the Christ Child, remained unchanged. The one standing near the centre of the composition points to the Virgin with one finger, his head turned in the opposite direction, whereas in the engraving he looks directly at her. The pose of the third figure in the foreground has also been changed. Other motifs have been modified little or not at all, such as the three figures in the background, the Virgin and Child, and two of the figures characteristic for Bellange, the basket-bearing woman and the horseman seen from the back.
The changed figures are found in a sheet at the Albertina (inv. 11754; see J. Thuillier, Jacques de Bellange, exhib. cat., Rennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 2001, no. 8, ill.). Although the attribution of the Viennese sheet had been questioned by certain authors, Jacques Thuillier has defended it, pointing out its early date in within the artist’s surviving work. Much of Bellange’s life remains unknown, especially the first part before he settled permanently at the Nancy court of the Duke of Lorraine. According to the most likely hypothesis, Bellange made a trip to Cologne around 1600, where De Passe asked him for drawings to be engraved, including the present one (Veldman, op. cit., p. 54). An inscription in the same hand as on the drawing at bottom left is found on another early sheet by the artist, also in the Albertina (inv. 11756; see Thuillier, op. cit., no. 2, ill.).