- Museum number
Allegory on Life and Death; an oval panel containing a child seated in front of a rose bush holding a skull and an hour-glass, surrounded by dead roses, insects and animals, including a frog, a mouse and a stag-beetle. 1598
Bodycolour and watercolour with gold leaf on vellum
- Production date
Height: 168 millimetres
Width: 236 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Exhibition label text (revised 2003):
'Hoefnagel is best remembered today as a miniaturist. He specialised in exquisitely painted illuminations of insects, birds and animals, often in allegorical contexts, with Latin mottoes or epigrams executed in elaborate calligraphy. In this capacity he worked from 1577-1591 for the dukes of Bavaria in Munich and later for the Emperor Rudolf II in Prague, where this drawing was made. The figure of the child with a skull and hour-glass within an ornamental frame has here been juxtaposed with animals and insects to create a 'Vanitas' allegory.'
Parts of the dense black bodycolour and the inscription on the upper scrolls, and the gold on the upper edge, have been re-touched. For a similar drawing by Hoefnagel of an allegory of Duke Albrecht V, see 'Wittelsbach und Bayern' exh.cat., Munich, 1980, vol.II/2, pp.46ff, no.65*. A further sheet (Venus disarming Cupid within an oval, surrounded by animals and insects representing the four elements) rather more damaged and covered in a thin layer of oil/varnish, was with Paul Prouté in Jan. 2008 and was acquired by the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen. Thea Vignau-Wilberg noted (January, 2010) that the composition within the oval with the figure of Cupid, which is drawn in a very different style to the elaborate surround, is most likely painted by Joris's son, Jacob, who was a much more competent figure draughtsman than his father. The two artists collaborated on other occasions (see for example, the miniature of Diana and Actaeon within a decorative border with plants, insects and small animals, dated 1597, in the Louvre, inv.no P.373). In the 2017 catalogue, Vignau-Wilberg attributes this miniature to both Joris and Jacob and suggests it was intended to recommend Jacob for a position at court. She considered the signature to be re-touched, as it does not match any other signed work (Joris always signed a Latinized form of his name, 'Georgius Hoefnagelius') and might have been added when the original signature was no longer legible (p. 186-7).
Literature: 'Die von Edmund Schilling gesammelten Zeichnungen', privately printed, 1982, no.35 (states that the drawing was published by E. Chmelarz, Jahrbuch des allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses, vol.XVII, p.287, n.1; and sold at the auction of C. Huysmans und A.J. Wijngaert, Amsterdam, 21-22 Juni 1887, Nr.101, when it was sold together with another miniature showing Adam and Eve); Rowlands 1984, no.57; Thea Vignau-Wilberg, 'Natur Dichtung und Wissenschaft in der Kunst um 1600', Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich, 1994, pp.33ff, note 19; Prague exh.cat. 1997; G. Bartrum, 'Apollo', November, CXLVI, 1997, p.53.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1984 Feb-Sept, London, Washington and Nuremberg, German Drawings
1997 May-Sep, Prague, Castle, Rudolf II
1997-8 Sept-Jan BM Schilling, no.56
2001 May - Sept, BM Recent Acquisitions 1996-2001
2003-4 Dec-April, BM, NACF exhibition
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- In 1997, the Museum acquired on the death of Mrs Rosi Schilling the majority of a collection of mostly northern Old Master drawings assembled by her late husband the curator and later drawings dealer and adviser, Edmund Schilling (1888-1974). Schilling was born in Germany and came to Britain in 1937 after the rise of the Nazis. He was prominent as a specialist in German Old Master drawings and his widow’s bequest in his memory was predominantly made up of studies that he had collected in this field. Given its importance, the Museum accepted the bequest for public benefit in good faith, and has afterwards researched its history, insofar as it has been able. There remain however many works in the bequest with uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45 and the Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of these works during that era.
See T. Vignau-Wilberg, 'Joris and Jacob Hoefnagel: Art and Science around 1600', Berlin 2017, p.186, no. C22 for details of early provenance.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number