Hieronymus Cock — La gravure à la Renaissance

Exhibition

Lithography / engraving

Hieronymus Cock
La gravure à la Renaissance

Past: September 15 → December 15, 2013

Hieronymus Cock (1518-1570) was the greatest and most innovative print publisher the Low Countries have ever known. He set up his business in the house known as “Aux quatre vents” (“In the Four W inds”) in Antwerp, where the first prints rolled off the presses in 1548. The publishing house focused exclusively on producing printed images, but on an unprecedented scale. Cock was able to secure the services of the best engravers and ordered his designs from the most ambitious and inventive artists.

He played a key part in disseminating the art of the Italian Renaissance, and in introducing new forms of ornament and architecture. It was Cock, too, who recognized the genius of the young Pieter Bruegel — with his penetrating outlook on the human condition no less innovative, even though he rejected artistic fashions. Bruegel’s diabolical fantasies and his grand vision of the landscape were soon familiar throughout Europe thanks to the prints Cock published.

The initial selection of prints drew on the huge holdings of the Royal Library of Belgium in Brussels. Substantial contributions came from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Fondation Custodia in Paris, and other European collections generously agreed to provide some indispensable loans. This made it possible to show a number of unique sheets and also to bring together some of the original drawings — including five by Pieter Bruegel the Elder — and exhibit them alongside the prints for which they served as the model.

The first section highlights Cock’s importance to the documentation of the ruins of the ancient world, a universe that had all European culture in thrall at this time. Cock was one of the first to reveal the aspect of the Roman ruins to those who were unable to make the journey to Italy, producing two substantial sets of prints, some of which he etched himself.

Cock played a similar role in propagating the art of the Italian High Renaissance. It would seem that very early on in his career as a publisher he conceived a plan to present the works of Raphael and his school — then known only to a few people who had actually seen them with their own eyes — to the wider public of the Low Countries. His trump card was his success in persuading the renowned Giorgio Ghisi to come to Antwerp for a number of years. The Italian engraver turned two of Raphael’s famous frescos in the Vatican into prints on monumental double sheets that certainly had the impact Cock was looking for.

Cock did not neglect the domestic Netherlandish tradition, however. In a number of prints he exploited the fantastical imaginary world of Hieronymus Bosch, who had died nearly half a century before but whose work had evidently lost none of its popularity with the public.

The prints after inventions by Pieter Bruegel the Elder are without question the most renowned part of Hieronymus Cock’s list. The collaboration between artist and publisher spanned more than fifteen years and produced over sixty fascinating sheets; the exhibition revolves around a wide-ranging selection of these works.

The prints showcase every aspect of Bruegel’s art. To begin with there are the satirical and burlesque images with which the artist swiftly established his reputation as the ‘new Hieronymus Bosch’.

The exhibition is the result of in-depth research into Hieronymus Cock’s output and came about as a collaborative project between M — Museum in Louvain, the Royal Library of Belgium in Brussels, Illuminare — Study Centre for Medieval Art, Royal University of Louvain, and the Fondation Custodia in Paris. The committee responsible for preparing the exhibition was led by Joris Van Grieken, curator at the Royal Library Print Room. It was made up of Ger Luijten, director of the Fondation Custodia, Professor Jan Van der Stock of Louvain University, Professor Dominique Allart of the University of Liège, Dr Gwendolyne Denhaene, curator at the Royal Library, and Professor Manfred Sellink, director of the Municipal Museums in Bruges.

Institut néerlandais Art center
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Assemblée Nationale
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Opening hours

Every day except Monday, 1 PM – 7 PM

302x284 hands on design original

The artist

  • Hieronymus Cock