“ To  Cut  Somebody  the  Stone ”

A  Delicacy
of  Netherlandish  Emblematical  Art

Leyden, Lucas Hugensz. van (1494 Leyden 1533). The Stone-cutter (The Cure of Folly). Quacking surgeon removing stones from behind an “imbecile” simpleton’s left ear which hamper his cerebration. Corresponding to that his right suggestively rests on a square stone while the left admonishes to be careful. With the right holding the ear the master’s left leads the scalpel. On the left a tray with two larger and a tiny stones already removed. Engraving. 1524. Enlarged copy in reverse by or at Jan Claesz. Visscher (c. 1550 Amsterdam 1612). Inscribed: ICV (ligated) excud. 10⅜ × 6⅝ in (26.4 × 16.8 cm).

New Hollstein, Leyden (1996), 156 g with ills.; Volbehr 152, copy d; Bartsch, Nagler (1839), Hollstein (1953) 156, Leyden in each case and as surgeon; Widmann + Mörgeli, (Barber and Surgeon), 1998, ills. p. 85, also after Leyden, but erroneously as “(Barber shaving the Back-hair)”. – Cf. Laurens J. Bol, Adriaen van de Venne, 1989, p. 103 + color ills. “The Stone-cutter / De Kei-snijder”. – The monogram here according to the first one shown by Wurzbach II, 800; cf. Nagler, Monogrammisten, III, 2155 + V, 1063, and also Cornelis Visscher’s one Nagler V, 1079 in imitation of the one here.

Jug with crown watermark. – With fine margins of 3-5 mm. – Glued down by old hand at left edge. – Right outward scarcely visible retouched tear and fine smoothed centerfold.

With Dutch five-line lettering by which the master boasts of his special skill :

Lucas van Leyden, Stone-cutter (The Cure of Folly)

“ Also inden nargonsche const niemant is myns gelycke. / Hebbe daerom vanden key te snyden … Oock vanden hooft weruel te finden soe goeden praetyke. / Als ick en quamer noyt experter meester int lant. ”

In such a manner then also explaining the addition of the

three  stones  missing  with  Leyden

in the basin – as for instance also present in van de Venne’s oil of 1630 – :

“ The symbolically intended depiction of the ‘cutting of the rock’ is based upon the fictitious claim of the surgeon who professes to be able to cure gullible folk of their feeblemindedness by the surgical removal of a stone from the head which is hampering the working of the patient’s brain. By lending himself for the pretended operation, the simpleton demonstrates his soft-headed foolishness in two-fold manner. The theme is

a  traditional  subject  found  in  Netherlandish  painting

from  Hieronymus  Bosch  (about  1450-1516)  to  Jan  Steen  (about  1626-1679) … ”


While with Leyden/Visscher surgeon + patient are located in an interior ambience, in van de Venne’s oil for instance the operation takes place in the open air, maybe during a kermis. The scenery surrounded by a crowd suffering from the same symptom. In and beside the basin on the ground several stones of various size. The inscription “Niemant” on a signboard there “is enigmatic to us in the 1980s” (Bol with well-founded chain of reasoning to its dénouement). That the caption here, though harmlessly, contains a “niemant”, too, may be repeated.

“ One  of  the  finest  works ”  of  van  Leyden’s

Lucas van Leyden, Surgeon
For comparison: van Leyden’s own smaller etching
(Nagler), yet measuring in its pictorially coarser original of 1824 only 4⅝ × 2⅞ in (11.7 × 7.4 cm) like the dentist of 1523 – there a woman at the back of the patient distracted by the operation empties his purse and thus he is “equally deceived on all sides” (Bol, op. cit., p. 100) – as pendant, and again and again missing in the Leyden passages of important collections. But still occurring! Whereas present

almost  still  contemporary  copy  engraving

remained unknown to the Leyden catalogs till Volbehr and then again the more recent literature till – in the interval of another century! – New Hollstein.

However, with respect to the intellectual content of the subject all authors prove by the thoughtless adoption of the traditional designation no less simple-minded than the to be healed simpletons. So in spite of illustration of just this copy engraving also New Hollstein not only ignores mentioned rocks added by Visscher, but neither the at least noted caption could rouse associations with the

Dutch  emblematics  of  “cutting  a  rock”

just uncovered again by Bol, and thus remained an ultimately disregarded “short poem in Dutch”. Anyhow, quack to and fro, Leyden’s famous engraving is together

one  of  the  early  ones  of  surgery .

Optically adequately brought out, however, only by

Visscher’s  400  years  old  copy  engraving

in  its  fine  size  of  –  now  –  10⅜ × 6½ in (26.4 × 16.6 cm) !

Offer no. 13,020 / EUR  2199. / export price EUR  2089. (c. US$ 2525.) + shipping

„ Ich habe die letzten Tage auf Ihrer Website gestöbert, weil sie dem Uhu und anderen Eulen viel Platz gewidmet haben … Da haben Sie mir eine tolle Nachricht geschickt. Ich freue mich auf Ihre Post … Der Inhalt Ihrer Eulenbroschüre ist äußerst gelungen … (Da) haben Sie mir ein schönes vorweihnachtliches Geschenk gemacht! “

(Herr A. O., 19. November/19. December 2015)