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Vigilantia [Vigilance] by Jean Chartier

Vigilantia [Vigilance] by Jean Chartier

Sarah Sauvin (IFPDA)



Edition Size: Very rare

Image Size: 17.5 x 12.1 cm

Sheet Size: 17.5 x 12.1 cm

Reference: Robert-Dumesnil 5, Andresen 1, IFF p. 213, undescribed state.


Condition: Good

Details — Click to read

Engraving, 175 x 121 mm. Robert-Dumesnil 5, Andresen 1, IFF p. 213, undescribed state.

Fourth plate from a series of ten plates titled Les Blasons de vertus [Allegorical depictions of the Virtues]

Impression of an undescribed third state, with the title completed. In the descriptions of this print by Robert-Dumesnil and by André Linzeler (in the Inventaire du Fonds Français), the title engraved at the bottom is Vigill. On our impression, this title has been corrected in the plate to Vigilantia (the top of the second l still visible), which constitutes a 3rd state (of 3).

Very fine impression printed on watermarked laid paper. The watermark is difficult to identify but seems to be similar to Briquet 5374 and 5375: three crescents with the name PERRET inside a cartouche. These two watermarks were noticed by Briquet on documents kept in Sens and dating from ca. 1569 and 1571. According to Briquet, this paper was made in Mallay-le-Roy’s paper mill, near Sens, that Claude Perret exploited shortly after 1559. This origin and datation seem to be consistent with Jean Chartier’s production of prints in Orléans between 1557 and 1580. This watermark is identical to that on the unique impression of Jean Chartier seated in his studio that we sold to the Rijksmuseum in 2021.

Condition: Impression slightly trimmed by 0.5 mm at bottom and 1 mm at top left. A tiny (7 x 6 mm) repaired loss of paper in the bottom right corner, with touches of watercolour. A very slight yellowish stain.

Extremely rare.

The title given to the series is that of the first plate, which serves as the frontispiece. It shows Jean Chartier in his bookshop, holding a large banner bearing the words: Symbola Virtutum nobis num grata? Quid ipsi Virtutum fructus? Les blasons de Vertu, par Vertu se surmonte. The plate is signed I. Chartier pinxit and located in Aureliae (Orléans). Séverine Lepape notes: ”Chartier presents himself as the originator of the series (pinxit) and gives the place of publication but does not say that he is the publisher—as if to suggest that the mention of the former implies the latter.” (“The Production of Prints in France at the Time of Hieronymus Cock”, in Simiolus, vol. 39, no. 3, p. 218).

The other plates in the series are Vigilance (engraved title Vigilantia), Strength (engraved title fortitudo), JusticeWisdomPrudenceTemperance (engraved title Temperantia), Patience (engraved title Patient.), Charity (engraved title Pietas) and Abundance. Cynthia Burlingham observes that: “By omitting Faith and Hope, and introducing Wisdom, Abundance, Vigilance and Patience, the group departs from the seven canonical virtues so widespread in Renaissance art. The way it is presented evokes the tenacious French medieval tradition of heraldic virtues, usually represented by seated women designated by various attributes. […] The elegant Mannerist figures in this series are set in landscapes with ancient ruins […] or seated in interiors with windows overlooking landscapes. Books are often depicted, even though they are not part of the subject’s usual attributes, and recall the library in the background of Chartier’s curious self-portrait on the series’ title page.” (La Gravure française à la Renaissance, p. 393, our translation).

There are indeed two thick volumes in Vigilantia: the young woman is writing in one while reading another on her lap. This studious activity perhaps reflects the first Latin meaning of vigilantia: the habit of staying awake, studying, while the dog standing guard at the door perfectly illustrates the figurative meaning. Guy de Tervarent notes “on the reverse of a Florentine medal, made at the end of the 15th century for Robertus Macingius, a dog ready to pounce [which] stands at the feet of ‘Vigilantia’ (Hill, no. 984, pl. 161)”. (Attributs et symboles dans l’art profane, 1997, p. 123) In the background, an armed man stands guard at the entrance to a fortified enclosure surrounded by a moat on the edge of which stands a fisherman.


The Artist

Jean Chartier

Jean Chartier (ca. 1500 – ca. 1580) was a French painter and printmaker.

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