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The Last Supper

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Title The Last Supper
Material and technique Pen and brown ink, bluish-gray wash, heightened with white, indented for transfer, framing lines with the pen in brown ink
Object type
Drawing > Two-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is in storage
Dimensions Height 140 mm
Width 104 mm
Artists Draughtsman: Karel van Mander
Accession number MB 1721 (PK)
Credits Purchased 1871
Department Drawings & Prints
Acquisition date 1871
Creation date in 1596
Signature ‘KvM . in[venit] . 1596’ monogrammed and dated (below left, in pen and brown ink)
Watermark Crowned crest, probably Coat of arms of Burgundy and Austria with Golden Fleece beneath (fragment: the third top part with crown, also found in inv. MB 1723 and 1726, the lower third part with the Golden Fleece is in inv. MB 1721 and 1722), in the centre of the left margin (vV, 5?P, quarto, very fine), very similar to Heawood 481 (Schieland 1602 and in Jodocus Hondius, Theatrum Artis Scribendi, Amsterdam 1594), similar to Churchill 266, but without housemark in the lower section of the shield (no place, 1623)(for a discussion of the paper, see under inv. MB 1721). This type of watermark (large fragment, only the bottom part with Golden Fleece missing) is also found in a drawing by Karel van Mander in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. no. 2009.334. The full watermark is present in an anonymous drawing, formerly attributed to Cornelis van Haarlem, also in the Museum Boijmans (inv. no. MB 1705, a cropped plano sheet). [AE] [for images click thumbnails above the 'zoom in' option] Five of the drawings for the Passion series (inv. nos. MB 1721, 1722, 1723, 1726 and MB 1728) contain fragments of the same type of watermark, situated in the middle of the left or right edge. From the fact that watermarks are generally found in the centre of one of the two halves of a production sheet or plano (c. 220 x 300 mm), we can infer that the thirteen small pieces of paper of this series were cut from four full production sheets. Each full sheet was folded twice and subsequently cut in four parts. Then the pieces of paper were cropped to almost exactly the same dimensions, thus losing a small margin. The watermark can be reconstructed by piecing together the top third part (a crown) found in inv. nos. MB 1723, 1726 and 1728 with the lower third part (bottom of the shield and the sign of the Order of the Golden Fleece beneath) found in the present sheet and in MB 1722. Because of the trimming of the sheets the central (approximately one third) section of the coat of arms is now missing. The lower section, however, bears the heraldic characteristics for a positive identification with the coat of arms of Burgundy and Austria. The same type of watermark (a large fragment, only the bottom part with Golden Fleece missing) is also found in a drawing by Karel van Mander, The Servants of Absalom killing Amnon, in New York. It is also found in the contemporary book by Jodocus Hondius, Theatrum Artis Scribendi, published in Amsterdam in 1594, just two years before the Passion series (Heawood 481, also found in Schieland documents, dated 1602). The other sheets, or rather pieces of paper, do not have a fragment of a watermark, which can be explained by the fact that half of the four pieces cut from a full sheet do not have one, and in some cases the view is obscured by the drawing preventing detection of a watermark fragment if present. All pieces of paper have the same waterline-chainline pattern. [Albert Elen]
Condition foxing in the left half
Inscriptions ‘2’ (verso, bottom right corner, in pencil), ‘2’ (verso, bottom right corner, in pen and brown ink)
Mark Museum Boymans Rotterdam (L.288)
Provenance Jan Pietersz. Zomer (1641-1724), Amsterdam, cat. 1720-24, p. 14, Album NN, [Plomp 2001, p. 203]; Sybrand Feitama jr. (1694-1758), his sale, Amsterdam (De Bosch/De Winter) 16 October 1758 sqq., Album R, nos. 1-12 (‘Karel Vanmandere, 'De Passie, zeer fraaij geteekend met Indigo en zommigen met roet; in koper gebragt door J. D. Gheyn', fl. 19,- to Van Dyk); Cornelis Ploos van Amstel (1726-1798), Amsterdam; his (†) sale, Amsterdam (Van der Schley et al.), 3 March 1800, Album BBB, no. 12 ('Dertien stuks uitvoerige Teekeningen, zynde de Passie; met de pen, O. I. Inkt en roet, alles door Carel van Mander', fl. 32,10 to Jolles); J.A. Jolles, his sale, Amsterdam (De Vries et al.) 27 November 1848 sqq., Album P, no. 725 ('Dertien stuks uitvoerige Teekeningen, voorstellende de Passie; met de pen en indigo; zijnde door A. Matham in het koper gebragt', fl. 8.75 to Lamme?); Diederik Vis Blokhuysen († 1869), Rotterdam, his sale (†), Rotterdam (Lamme) 23-28 October 1871, no. 379 (‘K. van Mander. La passion. Treize dessins. Au bistre légèrement coloré’, to the museum)
Exhibitions Rotterdam 2008 (coll 1); Paris/Rotterdam 2014, no. 57.3
External exhibitions Bosch to Bloemaert. Early Netherlandish Drawings from the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (2014)
Bosch to Bloemaert. Early Netherlandish Drawings (2017)
Roep om rechtvaardigheid (2018)
Research Show research Netherlandish Drawings of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries
Literature cat. 1901, p. 47, no. 519; Valentiner 1930, p. 86, no. Z.4; Stampfle 1991, p. 14, under no. 21; Miedema 1995, p. 119, no. D7; New Hollstein 1999a, appendix 2, no. 8, ill., and under no. 57; New Hollstein 2000a, part 1, p. 80, under no. 37
Indenting > Indented > Drawing technique > Technique > Material and technique
Indenting > Indented > Drawing technique > Technique > Material and technique
Highlight > Painting technique > Technique > Material and technique
Grey wash > Washing > Wash > Drawing technique > Technique > Material and technique
Blue wash > Washing > Wash > Drawing technique > Technique > Material and technique
Geographical origin Northern Netherlands > The Netherlands > Western Europe > Europe

Entry catalogue Netherlandish Drawings of the 15th and 16th Centuries.

Author: Albert J. Elen

The Passion series (inv. nos MB 1716-1728)

Together with his fellow townsman Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) Karel van Mander was the foremost supplier of drawn designs for prints. Unfortunately, most of these drawings have been lost. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, however, owns a unique, practically complete series of preliminary drawings1 for the set of engravings2 depicting the Passion of Christ.

The drawings were executed in a technique characteristic of Van Mander, but also popular with his older contemporary Stradanus.3 Each pen drawing was modeled with washes in different shades of blue and brown for the dark areas, creating highlights by leaving these parts untouched by the brush or by adding white bodycolour.4 The resulting rich chiaroscuro gives the drawings a painterly quality; it allows for a dark backdrop for the passion scenes and adds to the dramatic effect. Van Mander seems to have adopted this technique earlier on in his career when he was in Italy (1573-1577).5 The painterly shading technique had to be graphically translated into hatchings and cross-hatchings, a real challenge for the engraver, who was allowed a great deal of freedom also in working out details.6

To facilitate the 1:1 transfer of the image to the copper plate, the drawings were each carefully traced with a blunt needle. While drawing Van Mander took into account that the engraved depictions would become mirror images. The actual engraving was left to artists who specialized in this. Jacques de Gheyn II (1565-1629), who was also the publisher of the print series, accounted for four of them7; his gifted pupil Zacharias Dolendo (1561-1604) took care of the remaining ten. The museum owns two sets of the first edition, published in Leiden.8

The division of tasks has been inscribed at the bottom of each print. Van Mander is named as the draughtsman with the Latin abbreviations ‘inve.’, ‘inven.’ or ‘invent.’ (invenit = has invented/designed), De Gheyn and Dolendo as the engravers with ‘sc.’, ‘scu.’ or ‘sculp.’ (sculpsit = has engraved), and De Gheyn as the publisher with ‘exc.’ or ‘excu’ (excudit = has published). The print series itself is not dated. Based on the date 1596 written by Van Mander on two of the preliminary drawings, the print series is dated 1596-1598.

The set of design drawings includes one which was not engraved, The Foot Washing (inv. no. MB 1722), which for unknown reasons was left out of the series. Anyhow, it is not an essential scene and probably De Gheyn skipped it in order to limit the number. The preliminary drawings for prints 12 and 13 (ill. 1 and ill. 2) are missing. These must have got lost at some point, perhaps they were less refined in their execution and not considered worthwhile keeping.9 The others have always stayed together. After the engravings were finished the set of preliminary drawings has possibly been sold by the publisher who had ordered them from Van Mander and therefore owned them. What happened to them after that time we do not know. The set was eventually purchased for the museum at the Vis Blokhuyzen auction in Rotterdam in 1871, probably together with a set of the print series.

The three artists had worked together on a previous project, in 1595-1596 and just before the Passion series, depicting Eight Repentant Sinners from the Old and New Testament.10 The prints of that series are larger (circa 200 x 145 mm) than those of the Passion series and Van Mander’s designs for it have not survived. The cooperation between Van Mander and Jacques de Gheyn II goes further back. Around 1589 Van Mander delivered the designs for a print series The Twelve Sons of Jacob, engraved by De Gheyn and first published by Jan Pitten,11 which has similar dimensions as the Passion series. In 1591-1592 the two again worked together on the print series Christ, The Twelve Apostles and St Paul with the Creed,12 of which the sheets measure approximately 300 x 200 mm, and the designs have neither survived.


The Last Supper

This drawing is the design for the first print in the Passion series, engraved by Zacharias Dolendo and published by Jacques de Gheyn II (ill. 1).13 It is the second of five consecutive scenes taking place in spacious architectural settings, with classical columns, pilasters, and high barrel-vaults. Notwithstanding the small format, the palatial architecture is constructed along perspective lines and figures are depicted in the foreground as repoussoir, while others are diminishing in size when placed further away in the background.

[caption id="attachment_14258" width="572" align="alignleft"]fig. 1 Jacques de Gheyn (II). The Last Supper, 1596-1598. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. no. BdH 22407 fig. 1 Jacques de Gheyn (II). The Last Supper, 1596-1598. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. no. BdH 22407 [/caption]


1 Valentiner 1930, pp. 86-88, nos. Z.3-15; Stampfle 1991, p. 14, under no. 21; Miedema 1995, pp. 119-123, nos. D6-D18, ill; New Hollstein 1999a, appendix 2, nos. 7-19, ill; Plomp 2001, p. 203. A similar series, in another format and less finished than the onein Rottterdam, was in the sale of Gerard Leembruggen in Rotterdam on 5 March 1866, where the museum’s director A.J. Lamme bought many drawings for the museum, but did not show interest in this one. Lot 388: ‘Sujets de l’histoire Sainte. Neuf dessins. A l’encre de Chine, rehaussé de blanc’ (sold for fl. 2,75 to an unknown buyer called Jonkers, as annotated in the museum’s copy of the sale catalogue). This is probably the series of The life of St John the Baptist, now in Weimar’s Schlossmuseum (Valentiner 1930, nos. 16-24).

2 New Hollstein 1999a, nos. 56-69; New Hollstein 2000a, part I, no. 36-49.

3 See for instance the Ulysses series, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. nos. MB 2007/T 1, MB 1777, MB 1772 and MB 332.

4 His younger contemporaries Cornelis de Jode and Hendrick Hondius occasionally also used this technique, see Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. nos. CdeJode 1 and MB 1949/T 1.

5 For instance the Flight into Egypt, dated 1576, in Dresden, Kupferstich-Kabinett, inv. no. C 1969-1; Dittrich 1997, no. 36, col.ill, Ketelsen/Hahn 2011, pp. 79, 88, 98-99, 389.

6 Leesberg in New Hollstein 1999a, p. lxxxv.

7 The title page and the prints numbered 9, 11 and 13.

8 Inv. nos. BdH 22406-22419 (acquired in 1937) and inv. nos. OB 1856-1869 (acquired with the H.M Montauban van Swijndrecht Bequest in 1929). The prints are described in New Hollstein 1999a, nos. 7-19 and New Hollstein 2012, nos. 17-28.

9 The last three drawings are the only engraved scenes that have not been signed with the artist’s monogram. They have a more free handling of the pen and brush, the drawing of The Road to Calvary showing the underdrawing in black chalk.

10 Eight engravings, New Hollstein 1999a, pp. 18-21, nos. 21-28; New Hollstein 2000a, part I, pp. 46-55, nos. 15-22.

11 Twelve engravings, New Hollstein 1999a, pp. 6-10, nos. 5-16; New Hollstein 2000a, part I, pp. 30-43, nos. 2-13.

12 Fourteen engravings, New Hollstein 1999a, pp. 70-85, nos. 72-85; New Hollstein 2000a, part I, pp. 120-136, nos. 72-85.

13 New Hollstein 1999a, no. 57; New Hollstein 2000a, part I, no. 37; impressions in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. no. BdH 22407 and OB 1857.

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All about the artist

Karel van Mander

Meulebeke 1548 - Amsterdam 1606

Karel van Mander travelled to places such as Vienna and Rome, and then settled in Haarlem. Together with the artists Hendrick Golzius and Cornelisz. van Haerlem...

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