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Engraving, 98 x 98 mm. Hollstein 76, 1st state (of 2), Renier 77.
Impression of the 1st state (of 2) according to Hollstein (George S. Keyes), before the text was changed. Lombard’s age ANNO AET. XLV is said to have been added in the second state.
Very fine impression printed from the unworn plate on thin laid paper. Tiny 8 mm tear in the upper right margin, small foxmark with associated tiny hole in the letter on the left, a very tiny surface abrasion above the left eyebrow. Small remains of paper tapes at the sheet edges on the reverse. Generally in good condition.
There are several versions of this medallion portrait of Liège painter Lambert Lombard (1505/6 – 1566). None of them are signed, so their attribution and chronology are uncertain. The one we present here is listed among the works of the painter, architect and engraver Lambert Suavius. The letter and the subject correspond to the description J.-S. Renier gave of the engraving in 1877 in the catalog of Suavius’ works. Marie Mauquoy-Hendrickx mentions this portrait in the Wierix catalog of prints (vol. III. 1), agreeing with its attribution by J. S. Renier to Lambert Suavius. George S. Keyes (Hollstein) mentions a smaller copy (91 mm).
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam holds an impression of this first state. The British Museum holds an impression of another version attributed to an anonymous engraver, whose letter is identical to that of the impressions of the second state described in Hollstein (LAMBERTVS LOMBARDVS PICTOR EBVRONENSIS ANNO AET XLV). However, it is actually a different version: the painter’s clothing is different and the engraving, although quite similar, presents many small variations. A third version, quite close to the first one, of which a copy can be seen on the Harvard College Library website, is printed on the verso of the title page of copies of the Lamberti Lombardi apud Eburones pictoris celeberrimi vita written by his friend and disciple Dominicus Lampsonius (published by Hubert Goltzius in Bruges in 1565, in the artist’s lifetime). The letter LAMBERTVS LOMBARDVS PICTOR EBVRONENSIS ANNO AET XLV is accompanied by the date MDLI (1551). This version is also sometimes attributed to Lambert Suavius (Edward H. Wouk, “A portrait of the artist as friend” p. 104, fig. 5 and p. 106). Ulrich Pfisterer assumes that the Suavius engraving is a copy of this version (Platz da im Pantheon!, p. 111).
The model for the various versions must probably have been a self-portrait by Lambert Lombard, as the Greek verses printed below the engraving illustrating Lampsonius’ book expressly indicate: Αὐτός ἑαυτοῦ σῶμα γράφεν Λόμϐαρδος ἄριστος˙ ἤθεα και ψυχήν Λαμψονίοιο γραφίς. [The excellent Lombard has represented his physiognomy; his character and soul have been represented by the pen of Lampsonius (translated by us)]. Thus, Edward H. Wouk believes that this portrait was engraved after a drawing by Lombard, now lost (“A portrait of the artist as friend,” p. 106). He believes it is the earliest surviving portrait of Lambert Lombard.
Lambert Suavius was renowned for the finesse and accuracy of his engraving. The particular care given to the gaze of the model gives a real impression of presence.
Lombard and Suavius were both from Liege. Suavius was one of the many disciples and collaborators of Lombard, who had married Suavius’ sister in second marriage. He had engraved several prints after the compositions of the master, including the Sibyl (Hollstein 37), Charity (Hollstein 42) or Abundance (Hollstein 47).
The portrait of Lambert Lombard has often been compared to two other portraits of painters engraved in medallions by Lambert Suavius: Albrecht Dürer (Hollstein 75) and Michelangelo (Hollstein 78). Ulrich Pfisterer suggests that Suavius may have intended to compose a small series of “medals printed on paper” (“Papiermedaillen”), the first of its kind dedicated to artists, thus elevating the Liège painter to the same rank as the two greatest painters of the contemporary German and Italian schools (Platz da im Pantheon! p. 111).
References: J. S. Renier: “Lambert Suavius de Liège. Graveur en taille douce, typographe éditeur, peintre, poète et architecte”, in Bulletin de l’Institut archéologique liégeois, vol. XIII, 1877, pp. 299-230; Hollstein, vol. 28, 1984; U. Pfisterer ‘Kat. 8. Lambert Suavius, Drei “Papiermedaillen” auf Michelangelo, Dürer und Lambert Lombard’, in A. Döring., F. Hefele & U. Pfisterer (ed.): Platz da im Pantheon! Künstler in gedruckten Porträtserien bis 1800, 2018; Edward H. Wouk: « A portrait of the artist as friend: The painted likeness of Lambert Lombard », Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art, vol. 70, no. 1, 2020, pp. 96-117.