|Artist||Pieter de Jode the Elder|
|Published||P. de Iode exc. [Antwerp, c.1600]|
|Dimensions||Image 165 x 105 mm, Plate 168 x 110 mm, Sheet 202 x 140 mm|
One of a number of very similar memento mori portraits, featuring the bust of a skeleton in a decorative oval frame, this example engraved by the Elder Pieter de Jode. The skeleton's jawbone hangs open, showing an almost toothless mouth in an attitude suggestive of laughter. Depending on the mood of the viewer this can be read as a gesture of either mirth or mockery, or perhaps most appropriately as both. In the surrounding frame, grim armorials feature hourglasses and four skull-and-bones motifs wearing crowns, a papal tiara, and an ornate classicizing helmet. The rest of the space surrounding the oval frame is shaded to make the roundel appear like a cameo or medal, and above and below inscription spaces offer warnings in Latin, Dutch, and French that ultimately all things will fall into Death.
This is one of two separate memento mori portraits engraved by de Jode. The other, featuring the skeleton and oval frame relatively unchanged, also adds a pair of elaborate cartouche borders engraved with Latin 'vanitas' messages. This design seems to have been an invention of de Jode, engraved at some point in the 1590s and much copied and adapted by other artists, including Egbert van Panderen, Alexander Mair, Leclerc, and an unsigned example that is often attributed, probably erroneously, to Philips Galle. The current example appears to be far rarer, though its simplified design, and the addition of vernacular text in Dutch and French in place of the original Latin would suggest that de Jode issued it as a popular print in response to the success of his other, better known, plate.
Pieter de Jode the Elder (1570-1634) was a Flemish painter, engraver, art dealer and print publisher from Antwerp. He was the son of Gerard de Jode and the brother of Cornelis de Jode, who were both mapmakers. He was taught to draw and engrave by his father, and later by Hendrik Goltzius. During the 1590s he travelled in Italy, visiting Rome, Venice and Siena. He returned to Antwerp in around 1599, and joined the Guild of Saint Luke there. He became Dean of the Guild in 1608. Between 1631 and 1632 De Jode worked in Paris. He was married to Susanna Verhulst, who was the niece of Pieter Coecke van Aelst, and the sister-in-law of Jan Brueghel. He was the father and teacher of Pieter de Jode the Younger (1606-1674). His other pupils included Pieter de Bailliu, Johann Caspar Dooms, and Nicolaes Rijckmans.
Condition: Surface creasing and time toning to sheet. Small puncture to right of top inscription space. Chip to top margin, not affecting plate. Rust stain to fourth rib on right side of portrait. Blank on verso.