This exhibition features recently discovered copperplates from the Jesuit Wierix collection from De Krijtberg, Amsterdam, and prints by three members of the famous Wierix family: brothers Jan Wierix (1549-ca. 1618), Hieronymus Wierix (1553-1619), and Anton II Wierix (ca. 1555-1604). The Jesuit Wierix collection of copperplates came to light in the summer of 2000 when the Jesuit residence at De Krijtberg (the Church of St. Francis Xavier) in downtown Amsterdam was being vacated for renovations. The most senior member of the community produced a simple cardboard box that he kept in his room for more than thirty years. Nestled inside were seventy-five copperplates from the early 17th century, twelve of which are presented in this exhibition. Although little is known about the origin of the plates, it is likely that they were brought from Antwerp to Amsterdam for safekeeping after the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773. The plates, in excellent condition, make up one of the largest collections of Wierix copperplates in the world.
The title of the exhibition, “Mirroring the Saints,” offers two intertwined thematic concepts. The first emphasizes the technique of copperplate engraving, in which the artist incises an image in reverse on a plate. The resulting print thus “mirrors” the image on the plate. The second concerns a Jesuit devotional method in which the devotee meditates on the image and related biblical texts in order to emulate the virtues of Jesus and other holy figures, including saints and the Virgin Mary. The Wierix brothers specialized in this type of image-making, and their prints would have served as visual aids for prayer and meditation.
Each copperplate from the Jesuit Wierix collection is framed alongside a modern impression. The exhibition also features engravings from the Carlos permanent collection, the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library of Emory University, and the Melion-Clum collection, all original to the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. These prints and bound volumes provide examples of the variety of visual devotional aids produced by the Wierix family, from a large series detailing the epic Old Testament feats of Samson to a small, intimate engraving that reveals the quiet penitence of Mary Magdalene.
From the Nederlandse Provincie der Jezuïeten, Museum Het Valkhof, Nijmegen, the Netherlands; organized by Manresa Gallery, San Francisco, CA. Generously supported by the Genevieve Blaettler Fund for the Visual Arts.
Special thanks to the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library of Emory University, Walter Melion and John Clum, Jan Rippentrop, and Joseph Chorpenning.