Marcus Gheeraerts The Elder of Bruges, London, and Antwerp
. Haentjens Dekker & Gumbert . Utrecht
NE2055.5.G43 H6 1971 (Carlson Fable Collection, BIC bldg)
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Here is a lovely study of Gheeraerts and his work. Here one finds 86 pages of tight information and criticism and then 62 photographic plates of Gheeraerts' work. The frontispiece is the title-page of De Warachtighe Fabulen der Dieren with not a misshapen Aesop but Orphic man, a symbol of dominion. A T of C at the beginning gives a sense of the work. Hodnett looks first at the shape of Gheeraerts' career, then at his paintings and single etchings. Chapter IV, Books Illustrated, brings him in 1567 to De Warachtighe Fabulen der Dieren, which he calls the main achievement in the long career of Marcus Gheeraerts (31). For this work, Gheeraerts produced some 107 illustrations, which appeared with small margins. This is a book of pictures -- not illustrations of De Dene's earnest homilies but of the old stories as Marcus might have known them as a boy . . . now brought to life among the Flemish scenes in which he perhaps always imagined them taking place (33). Gheeraerts added eighteen new illustrations and a title-page for Esbatement moral des animaux, an anonymous French version of the Dutch Fabulen der Dieren which appeared in Antwerp in 1578. Hodnett finds these new etched illustrations indistinguishable in manner from the earlier ones and thus clearly done by Gheeraerts. Mythologica Ethica in 1579, by Arnold Freitag, has the same 125 illustrations. Gheeraerts' etchings may still be in existence; they were last sold publically in 1868. Gheeraerts' animals are well done, yet human beings clearly interest Gheeraerts more than animals do (35). Hodnett examines the influence of Gheeraerts' Aesopic illustrations, emphasizing such major figures as Ogilby's Francis Clein, Wenceslaus Hollar, and Francis Barlow. Hollar and Barlow owe him a great deal simply as etchers; but beyond that they could not have helped learning a good deal both from his technique and from his fresh outlook on the craft of illustration (40). His achievement? He focuses the intensity of interest, as with a burning glass, on the central dramatic event and then spreads the interest on a lower scale of values throughout the design (53). His illustrations are as fresh and appealing today . . . Because his art always serves a narrative function, not a decorative one, or for all the intent of his authors, a religious or a merely didactic one (54). Final chapters and sections deal with other works, an index, and a list of the appended photographic plates. Of these, #5 through 26 are from Fabulen der Dieren, while #38 through 41 are from Esbatement. Lovely!