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The Month February (Pisces)

The Month February (Pisces)

Hans Bol (in 1580)

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Bol has incorporated existing topographical details in this drawing. On a frozen moat outside the city walls people are skating. In the foreground spectators are standing on a bridge. It leads to the city gate, which can be identiefied as the well-known Roode Poort (Red Gate) of Antwerp, with it characteristic medieval tower. Behind it is the St. Jacobskerk.

This miniature drawing is a design for a series of prints depicting the twelve months, engraved by Adriaen Collaert and published by Hans van Luyck.

The months can be identified by the signs of the zodiac and by the occupations that are characteristic for each month. The drawings show a variety of details from everyday life and bear witness to Bol's dual talent: he was both a landscape painter and a chronicler of everyday life.

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Collection book

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Specifications

Title The Month February (Pisces)
Material and technique Pen and brown ink, brown wash, framing lines with the pen in brown ink, on a round piece of paper
Object type
Drawing > Two-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is in storage
Dimensions Diameter 140 mm
Artists Tekenaar: Hans Bol
Accession number MB 2005/T 2 b (PK)
Credits Aankoop met steun van / Purchase with the support of: Stichting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Vereniging Rembrandt, Mondriaan Fonds, Stichting Job Dura Fonds en Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds 2005
Department Drawings & Prints
Acquisition date 2005
Age artist About 46 years old
Signature ‘hans bol / 1580’ (recto, on the bulwark beneath the tower, in pen and brown ink)
Watermark none (vH, 5P)
Condition laid down
Inscriptions ‘februarius’ (recto, at upper centre, in pen and brown ink)
Mark none
Provenance Jan van Dijk, his (†) sale, Amsterdam (Van der Schley a.o.), 14 March 1791, Album M, no. 55 ('De Twaalf Maanden van 't Jaar, in, volgens zynen aard, gestoffeerde Landschappen, in rond Formaat, met de sodiakteekens, zynde alle zeer fraay en uitvoerig met Roet en de Pen geteekent, door Hans Bol, 1580', fl. 21,10 to De Vos)[copy RKD]; Jacob de Vos, Amsterdam, his sale, Amsterdam (De Vries a.o.), 30 November 1833, Portfolio UU, no. 3 ('De twaalf Maanden des jaars. Uitvoerig met de pen, door HANS BOL. Rond formaat', for fl. 4,50 to Brondgeest)[copy RKD]; Six van Hillegom family, their sale, Amsterdam (Muller), 16 October 1928, no. 458 (fl. 1.200 to art dealer Nicolaas Beets, Amsterdam) [copy RKD]; Franz W. Koenigs (1881-1941), Haarlem, acquired in 1928 (part of the second Koenigs Collection); by inheritance to his daughter Christine van der Waals-Koenigs (1915-1995), Bloemendaal, 1946; her (†) sale (‘The Franz Koenigs collection’), New York (Sotheby's), 23 January 2001, no. 11 (‘one of a series of twelve: The Twelve Months’); art dealer Robert Noortman, Maastricht; Dura Foundation, Rotterdam; acquired by the museum with the support of the Vereniging Rembrandt, the Mondriaan Foundation and other donors, 2005
Exhibitions Amsterdam/Ontario 1972, no. 3, ill.; Rotterdam 2004b; Rotterdam 2008 (coll 1 kw 1); Rotterdam 2009 (coll 2 kw 3); Paris/Rotterdam 2014, no. 32.2
Research Netherlandish Drawings of the 15th and 16th Centuries.
Literature [the series:] Hollstein III, 1950, p. 51, under nos. 66-77; Hollstein IV, 1951, p. 206, under nos. 523-534; New Hollstein 2005-2006, part VI, p. 48, under nos. 1326-1337; Elen/Van der Coelen 2006, pp. 13-16, ill.
Material
Object
Technique
Brown wash > Washing > Wash > Drawing technique > Technique > Material and technique

Please note: The metadata of this object have not been checked.
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Entry catalogus Netherlandish Drawings of the 15th and 16th Centuries.

Author: Albert J. Elen

Among the sixteenth-century Netherlandish drawings Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen owns four coherent groups which were made as designs for print series. Groups like these are rather unique as most have not survived or have been dispersed, individual drawings often missing since. These twelve miniature drawings by Hans Bol, which have been kept together in an album and have thus survived complete and in excellent condition, are designs for a series of prints depicting the twelve months, engraved by Adriaen Collaert (ca. 1560-1618) and published by Hans van Luyck in Antwerp around 1580-81.1 The museum owns a complete set of the first edition.

The depiction of the seasons (in series of four) and the months (in series of four, six or twelve) stems from medieval tradition; they are known from calendars in illuminated manuscripts. The genre was made popular by the dissemination of prints after designs by Pieter Bruegel. The artistic merits of the individual drawings in Bol’s series, combining the new landscape vision introduced by Bruegel with a highly accomplished miniature-like technique and great inventiveness, make it a milestone in the history of drawing. Despite their small size—the roundels have a diameter of only 14 cm each and look like miniatures—there is quite a lot to be seen in the carefully executed pen and brown ink drawings. They each show a variety of details from everyday life and bear witness to Bol’s double talent: he was both a landscapist and a ‘chronicler’ of everyday life. He was furthermore a pioneer of town views: some of the places in which the scenes in the twelve drawings are enacted can be identified as Antwerp (February), Brussels (September) and Bergen op Zoom (January).

The months can be identified by the signs of the Zodiac placed at top centre and by the occupations that are characteristic for each month:2 such as celebrating in January and May, skating in February, planting and pruning in March, cultivating the garden in April, shearing sheep in June, harvesting hay and grapes in July-August and September, wine making in October, felling trees and chopping wood in November, slaughtering pigs and processing meat in December.

Seven drawings are dated '1580' (February, May, June, July and September) or '1581' (October and November); all of these, except November are also fully signed. Assuming that the drawings were made in chronological order of the months, it may be concluded that January, March and April were made in 1580 and December in 1581.

In the depictions of the months June, July, August and October the signs of the zodiac were not executed on the sheet itself but each separately on a small circular piece of paper attached to it, probably as corrections. In the engravings – two consecutive months of one copper plate – Collaert has made changes where necessary (September and October), erroneously putting the sign of Pisces upside-down on the February engraving and horizontally mirroring the Cancer image of June. In the consecutively numbered engravings Collaert has added two double cadre Lines around each month, with the name in Latin capitals in between at the top, just above the sign of the zodiac, supplying the first with the names of the designer, engraver and publisher.

The print series served as a source of inspiration to contemporaries, including Bol’s follower Abel Grimmer (1570-1618) from Antwerp, who in 1599 even made a copy of the series in oil on tiny wood panels, of similar dimensions as the prints and in the same direction.3

The Twelve Months theme actually owes its popularity to Hans Bol and his successors. At the end of the sixteenth century the months were depicted in different ways. The landscape etchings with small figures by Peeter van der Borcht are entirely in the spirit of Bol’s series of 1580‑81, whereas Joos de Momper was placing large figures in his foregrounds. The series by Paul Bril (1615) and Jan van de Velde (1616) clearly herald the different ways in which Bol’s example would be followed later. The one chose to depict mountainous landscapes in the Italian manner, whereas the other highlighted the realistic element with lifelike Dutch landscapes. What all the series do however have in common are the signs of the Zodiac in the sky.

 

The Month February (Pisces )

On a frozen moat outside the city walls people are skating and having fun. In the foreground spectators are standing on a bridge, while workmen are pulling a cart with a barrel on it, and others strolling. As in the drawing of January, Bol has incorporated existing topographical details in here as well.The bridge leads to the city gate, which can be identified as the well-known Roy Poort or Roode Poort (Red Gate) of Antwerp, with its accompanying medieval tower. Behind it, to the right, is the St. Jacobskerk. Bol depicted part of the new city walls with seven bastions finished twenty-five years before, in 1555, surrounding an expanded city holding over a hundred thousand inhabitants, a true megapolis at that time.4 The Roode Poort was one of five new city gates built in Renaissance style and demolished three centuries later, in 1866.5 The overall situation was depicted by Bol around the same time in a panoramic view of Antwerp from the east showing the entire fortified city with ramparts and the bulwarks near the Roode Poort.6

The elevated viewpoint allows for a distant view of the countryside South-West of Antwerp with the river Schelde beyond. Bol was undoubtedly inspired by the print engraved by Frans Huys after a design by Pieter Bruegel, depicting a view of the St. Jorispoort (St. George’s Gate) with bridge and skaters, published by Hiëronymus Cock in Antwerp around 1559-60 (ill. 1).7 Placing the bridge in the foreground, Bol created a convincing and attractive repoussoir, at the same time serving as a stage for depicting daily activities of the inhabitants of this city. The proportions of the figures on the ice are not to scale, but it does not affect the charm of this composition.

This is the design for the second engraving in the series of illustrations of the months by Adriaen Collaert, published by Hans van Luyck (ill. 2).8 Collaert’s print was reproduced, without source reference, in a lithograph titled Stadsgezicht. Van buiten (City view. Outside the walls) in 1863 to illustrate volume V of W.J. Hofdijk’s six-volume publication on the daily pursuits of our predecessors, in this case a short discourse about the Antwerp citadel – which is not depicted – and skating.9

[caption id="attachment_13709" width="789" align="alignleft"]fig. 1 Adriaen Collaert after Hans Bol. The month February (Pisces), c. 1581. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. no. L 1965/114 bfig. 1 Adriaen Collaert after Hans Bol. The month February (Pisces), c. 1581. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. no. L 1965/114 b[/caption][caption id="attachment_13710" width="800" align="alignleft"]fig. 2 Frans Huys after Pieter Bruegel. Skating before the St George's Gate, Antwerp, Antwerp, c. 1559-1560. Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, inv. no. BdH 8020fig. 2 Frans Huys after Pieter Bruegel. Skating before the St George's Gate, Antwerp, Antwerp, c. 1559-1560. Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, inv. no. BdH 8020[/caption]

Footnotes

1 New Hollstein 2005-06, part VI, pp. 48-56, nos. 1326-1337, illustrated (present in the museum’s collection, two successive months printed together on one sheet of paper, starting with January and February, ending with November and December: inv. no. L 1965/114 a-L).

2 Five years afterwards Bol designed a similar but oblong format series of the Months, with signs of the zodiac and labors of the months, with additional title print (EMBLEMATA EVANGELICA) and including scenes from the Life of Christ, which was likewise engraved by Adriaen Collaert, but published by Egidius Sadeler in 1585; New Hollstein 2005, part II, nos. 225-237, ill., a complete set is in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. no. BdH 10495 BFA 53-10507 BFA 53.

3 In the art trade, see the catalogue of The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), Maastricht 2010, p. 117, ill.

4 The number dropped after the fall of the city in 1584; ten years later less than 50.000 inhabitants remained.

5 The gate, bastion and bridge are clearly indicated on the coloured map of Antwerp by Claes Janszoon Visscher, Marchionatus Sacri Romani Imperii, published in 1624 (on the map at upper left, an oblong frontal view of the city wall, viewed from the East, in the margin at the bottom, centre left).

6 Oxford, Ashmolean Museum; Franz 1965, p. 63, no. 106, pl. 91.

7 New Hollstein 2006, no. 41, ill., a copy is in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. BdH 8020.

8 New Hollstein 2005-06, part VI, p. 48, no. 1327, ill. on p. 51 (present in the museum’s collection, printed on one sheet of paper with January: inv. no. L 1965/114 b).

9 W.J. Hofdijk, Ons voorgeslacht in zijn dagelyksch leven geschilderd, Haarlem 1863, vol. 5, opposite p. 299, pl. 22.

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Hans Bol

Mechelen 1534 - Amsterdam 1593

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