Museum buys the world's tallest print

Museum buys the world’s tallest print
16 August 2007

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has acquired a print showing the family tree of Charles V published in 1536 by the Antwerp-based graphic artist Robert Peril. The giant woodcut measures 7.25 metres and is thus the tallest print in the world. The twenty-one hand-coloured sheets were mounted on linen at the time of publication and constitute the only known complete copy of the first edition of the print. The museum has purchased the work for its large Erasmus exhibition in 2008.

The woodcut showing the family tree of Charles V and the Habsburgs was created in 1536 by Robert Peril in honour of the Holy Roman Emperor. That Charles V was pleased with this work is clear from the considerable sum of money he paid Peril in the same year. The print acquired by Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is part of the first French edition; versions in other languages followed later. The print was hand-coloured directly after printing and the pigments are still lively after some five hundred years. Hand-coloured prints were frequently used at the time as wall decorations and thus often perished. It is therefore exceptional that this example has survived intact as the only known complete copy of the first edition.

The print will be part of the large Erasmus exhibition the museum is organising from 8 November 2008 to 8 February 2009. Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) is one of the greatest Dutchmen of all time and this exhibition will show why his name is still so widely known today. Important themes in his work such as religion, satire, war and education will be represented by paintings from collections at home and abroad. Some of these masterpieces have never previously been seen in the Netherlands.
As an ‘honorary councillor’ Erasmus played a role in the education of the young Charles V. The scholar’s plea for peace in this turbulent age will not always have been welcome with the monarch, who was determined to extend his empire on all sides. The print by Robert Peril will give the visitors to the exhibition an insight into Charles V’s complex family tree.

The purchase funds of 120,000 euros were made available by the Stichting Lucas van Leyden, a foundation established in 1936 by the collector Dr J.C.J. Bierens de Haan for the expansion of the print collection at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.
The Erasmus exhibition is being organised in association with the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.