[The Four Continents]

Method Copper engraving with hand colouring
Artist Jean Leclerc IV after Maerten de Vos
Published I. Le Clerq. ex. [Paris, c.1606]
Dimensions Images c.115 x 185 mm, Plates c.130 x 185 mm, Sheets c.185 x 260 mm
Notes A highly decorative set of the Four Continents, shown allegorically as personifications riding on chariots pulled by animals distinctive to their region, and carrying the accoutrements of their corresponding nations. Engraved by Leclerc, the engravings are essentially reversed copies of the better known sets by Julius Goltzius, Adriaen Collaert and Jan Baptiste Vrients after a series of drawings by Maerten de Vos. These examples likely derive from a very large set of engravings Leclerc published in conjunction with Thomas de Leu in 1606, featuring over 150 works of biblical, historical, allegorical, emblematic, and moralistic interest. The continents, in full and beautiful hand colour, are as follows:

Europa: Europe, as queen of the world, is shown crowned, carrying an orb and sceptre, her baroque chariot pulled by a pair of mighty destriers. Behind her are scenes of Peace and War. An rustic herds his pigs while two cows rest under the oak trees. In the distance, two armies clash, their pikes held aloft. Four lines of Latin text below the image read: Europam vehit acer equus, dum temperat Orbis / Imperia et late custodit milite fines. / Haec sparsim niveas pecudes armentaque pascit, / Maxima & inventrix rerum quas perficit arte.

Asia: Asia, as an oriental princess, wears an elaborate turban and swings a censer of incense, its billowing smoke hanging above the camels that tow her chariot. Behind her are scenes of Peace and War. A Turkic shepherd leans on a long crook, watching his long-eared sheep, while a pair of elephants able nearby. In the distance, two armies clash before a town in the mountains. Near them, a strange black long-necked beast emerges from the forest. Four lines of Latin text below the image read: Ecce Asiam gemmis locupletem & thure Saboeo / Quam furor incensus ciet ad certamima Martis / Verueces laeto paseuntur gramine campi, / Et citus incessu fert pondera magna camelus.

Africa: Africa, distinctively 'wilder' than Europe and Asia, is shown nude, holding a parasol to shade her from the sun, and shaking a tambourine with her left hand. She reclines languidly on a crocodile, and her chariot is pulled by a pair of lions. Behind her, the landscape shows no evidence of human habitation, with a winding river providing nourishment to a thick grove of trees, as well as a pair of elephants, a lioness, two ostriches, and a cameleon. Four lines of Latin text below the image read: Africa, quae radiis est Solis torrida semper, / Monstra parit, plustrisque cogit dare colla leones, / Est elephante gravis, gravis et strutionibus, atque / Baccifero gaudet praetexere palmite ripas.

America: America, representing the New World and the unknown, is the most fantastical of the set. Bare-chested, she wears a short kilt and a headress of parrot feathers, carrying a bow and a curved-bladed axe, her chariot pulled by a pair of gleaming white unicorns. Below the wheels of her chariot, an armidillo is the only other animal in the scene. Behind the central group, a priest and a butcher disect a human corpse and lay it on a large barbeque, while naked figures behind them practice archery near a large circular pallisaded enclosure. Four lines of Latin text below the image read: seu olueri telo defondet America contra numinibus, falsis peragens deque arbore odores infensos hostes humano sanguine sacra collegit et vitae quodcumque est usibus aptum.

Jean Leclerc IV (c.1560-1624) was a French engraver, publisher, author, and cartographer, and one of a large family of artists, engravers, publishers, and booksellers.

Maerten de Vos (1532-1603) was a Flemish painter and draughtsman. He was a pupil of his father Pieter de Vos, and a follower of Frans Floris in Antwerp. Between 1550 and 1558 he travelled in Italy, visiting Rome, Venice and possibly Florence. In 1558 he became a master of the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke. Between 1571 and 1572, he was dean of the Guild. From 1575 he mainly produced print designs. He was the father of the artists Daniel (1568-1605) and Maerten the Younger (1576-1613).

Condition: Strong impressions with full margins. Binders holes to left margins of sheets. Minor marginal creasing.
Framing mounted
Price £1,700.00
Stock ID 45222