“ This is a Precious Main Sheet
of the Elder Manner ”
After the “Discoverer” of the Alpine Waterfall for Art
— “ who might ever imagine this ? ” —
and here after an extremly early one of his representations
Savery, Roelant (Kortrijk 1576 – Utrecht 1639). The great mountainscape sloping to wide navigable distant valley. With the wood-lined
mountain torrent falling in cascades into the depth
“past a steel works and a hammer mill driven by one (recte two) waterwheel at a copper or iron forge. The landscape reminds of parts west of Salzburg in the Pinzgau and in the region of Viehhofen. The rock parts resemble those of the lower Krimmler Falls”. As little secondary scene far lower left St. Jerome with the lion in his grotto reading a book as anticipation of future works. A rambler or hunter with pole & dog gives alms to one sitting on the path, picturesquely distributed mountain goats, but also a waiting horse, a resting royal stag, a fishing heron. A further one also up in the air in still good distance to two falcons. Variedly feathered ones besides on trees right up to two owls, at least the upper one of which with tufts. And tiniest little figures attend to their living now here, now there, as obvious among them also quarry workers. Lined by places, on the river course boats & multi-masted sailing ships. Etching with engraving by Isaac Major/Mayor (Frankfort on the Main 1588 – Vienna after 1642). Inscribed within the picture on a stone far left below the lion: Roeland Savery Pinxit / Isaac Maior sculpsit / Viennæ Austr. 1622. Sheet size 20⅞ × 27¾ in (53 × 70.4 cm).
Joaneath Spicer, Roelandt Savery and the ‘Discovery’ of the Alpine Waterfall in Rudolf II and Prague, The Court and the City, 1997, pp. 146-156; Thieme-Becker, Major, XXIII (1929), 580 (main sheet); Weigel, Art Catalog/Major, I (1838), 451 ( “The great royal landscape with St. Jerome … Old impression. Oblong imp. fol.” ); Nagler, Major, VIII (1839), 201, 1 ( “… the artist’s main sheet; 1622 executed with extraordinary diligence. He fancied
to make his fortune by this work ,
yet did not get the profit hoped for. There are old [as present one] and new [partially quite conspicuously feeble] impressions from the plate … J. Wagner has copied this sheet in reverse.” ); Nagler, Savery, XV (1845), 48 ( “Quite a number of paintings by this master are also known in print, and among these we mention above all the great alpine landscape on the left with painterly formed rocks, cascades, ironworks, and far valley distance, and in front St. Jerome, engraved by Isaac Major, Viennae 1622.
This is a precious main sheet of the elder manner …” );
Wurzbach, Savery, II (1911), 563, 2 ( “Alpine landscape with ironworks …” ). – Worked in reverse, the
contemporary , particularly competent rendering
in the original size
of Savery’s painting in Petersburg (Hermitage, inv. no. 5584; Müllenmeister  241; copper, 21¼ × 28⅜ in [54 × 72 cm]) from 1606 and therewith from the first years of working in oil with the Tower of Babel from1602 (M. 2 & p. 18/II/3) as prelude, engraved by Major, as pupil of Savery’s at Prague particularly familiar with the œuvre, whose painted work soon fell short of the engraver’s, in which profession he perfected himself with no less a figure than the imperial court engraver Egidius Sadeler II (Antwerp 1570 – Prague 1629; “The most important member of the [Sadeler] family. Also painter … One of the best engravers of the day”, Th.-B.) working there and in whose house he lived for a long time.
Savery himself was as Imperial Chamber painter from 1604 to 1612 in the employ of the outstandingly artistic Rudolf II.
“ When Savery came to Prague in 1604, he was in for the most imaginative and fruitful part of his development … By order of Rudolf II
Roelant travelled Tyrol between 1606 and 1608 .
This journey left lasting impressions in his drawn and painted œuvre and influenced the artist decisively. In numerous imaginative landscapes, partly with exceedingly bizarre, yet at the same time
near-natural views of Tyrol
and with experiences from life Savery has slipped in this journey into his art … Its closeness to nature is unsurpassed … For Savery the years in Prague … mean a period of independent activity, travels and
full development to one of the most important artists of his day ”
(Kurt J. Müllenmeister in the exhibition catalog Roelant Savery in seiner Zeit, Cologne/Utrecht 1985/86, pp. 32 ff.).
And just from this period then present mountainscape origins , standing for “the landscape experience Tyrol” , for the “wild , original power” of those early years. And stylistically in general Savery reckons among
“ the personalities of his day who have preserved their intellectual and formal independence and have absorbed ideas from the outside to a limited degree only … Savery remained essentially unaffected by the stylistic movements of the arts of his day, especially Dutch painting. The archaic character of his work will always be in contrast to the realistic painting in Holland.
The works of his best period
are defined by the wild romance of Tyrol and Bohemia
which he could become acquainted with by his patron Rudolf II ”
(Müllenmeister, R. S., Die Gemälde mit kritischem Œuvrekatalog, 1988, page 18/II).
The Falls (detail)
Art-historically taking further according to more recent literature besides his position as
pioneer of the representation of the alpine waterfall
like the one here from 1606 as one of his very earliest
and as such probably unknown, at least not mentioned, by Spicer who refers for this by illustration 9.9 only to one from c. 1606/07, nevertheless to six mountainscapes in drawings created already before 1606, of which only two show a waterfall though.
However, according to Spicer before Savery the alpine waterfall as “most dramatic material” was worth neither the artistic nor the writer’s eye, perceived at most as touristic accessory.
“ These are all wonders or marvel of nature, naturalia, examples of the divine handiwork that could not be physically collected and displayed. Such motifs are absent from the subtle alpine landscapes drawn from life a few years earlier by Savery’s colleague in Prague, the goldsmith Paulus van Vianen. Surely van Vianen passed by torrential alpine waterfalls, but he simply did not see them as worthy of artistic attention. He probably just thought of them the way most travellers did, as threatening …
In 1606 (the year of creation of present picture) there was one place where the play of a great waterfall was considered an aesthetic experience: at Tivoli just outside Rome … The portrayal of a rushing, violent waterfall seems to have made its artistic debut in the mid-sixteenth century, at least as far as existing works of art give evidence, at Tivoli outside Rome, in works by the Venetian Giulio Muziano and the Fleming Pieter Bruegel, whose original lost compositions are recorded in contemporary engravings … Did the waterfalls of the Alps not appeal to Bruegel’s imagination? While he ‘looked at’ them as a traveller, as an artist he apparently did not ‘see’ them. In the environs of Rome … Bruegel’s eyes were opened … There were tourist sites to be visited. On the other hand, there were no glaciers; one would not be swept away by a suddenly engorged cataract. There was no threat; the force of the moving water could be viewed with detachment ”
(Spicer, a. a. O.).
were just the falls of Tivoli outside Rome
as the aim of the travels .
Not so on the part of Rudolf II. His interest it was to obtain “new rarities for his Kunst- und Wunderkammer”. And this then was reason and commission for Savery’s expedition into Tyrol of 1606/08, leading him more than 600 km,
“ to search for rare wonders of nature ”.
Because this has proven “so good at depicting cliffs, crags, rocks, mountains and waterfalls”.
“ As a result, over two years he made (mostly fully executed painterly) drawings of the most wondrous mountains and valleys … in a large book which were later of great use for his landscapes that were to be enjoyed in the gallery of the emperor ”
(Joachim von Sandrart, Savery’s first biographer, in his Teutsche Academie of 1675, after Spicer, op. cit, p. 147 with note 7).
This album, just the essence of the innumerable landscape drawings of the decade at the court in Prague, later came, according to Antonie Waterloo, into the possession of Rembrandt. Lambert Doomer acquired it in his bankruptcy sale and copied a great deal from it.
“ The tumbling waterfall, which would seem an obvious vehicle for compositional drama, played a remarkably small role in the sixteenth-century evolution of landscape into an independent specialty. Waterfalls as opposed to springs, fountains, rivers, seas or, on the other hand, trees, mountains or caves, played no real role in Christian narratives, Greco-Roman history and mythology or Renaissance pastoral poetry, the prime sources for the subjects of early landscape painting. The waterfall was almost unique among the elements of nature introduced by sixteenth-century landscapists in having practically no literary, much less pictorial, prehistory (i.e. before the advent of landscapes as such) in which the conventions were formulated …
Some of Savery’s contemporaries, such as Jan Brueghel, Hendrick Goltzius, Pieter Lastman, and Josse de Momper among others, represented the occasional waterfall or cascade, but no one focused on their attractions as Savery did or drew them repeatedly from life. Therefore,
as a subject for artistic meditation
the alpine waterfall could be said to have been ‘discovered’ by Savery ”
(Spicer, op. cit.).
And in its depiction, as not having been in Italy himself, quite with intellectual recourse to the representations of the falls at Tivoli known to him from engravings.
This from about 1606. And, as it proved, as prelude. For when sixteen years later Isaac Maior worked present etching after indeed his pioneer work of 1606, the cold artistic shoulder given to the alpine waterfall for so long warmed up on the double, ultimately preparing Allart van Everdingen, pupil of Savery’s, in his encounter with the waters of Scandinavia and as peak enabling Jacob van Ruisdael, who
“ never travelled in mountainous terrain, but once acquainted with the alpine imagery of Savery and Allart van Everdingen’s views of Scandinavia, he was able to discover breathtaking drama in the cataracts of the hill country in the eastern Netherlands … trademark cataract compositions of the mid-1660s …
Who could ever dream this ?
That is the heart of the matter. Once established as an aesthetic experience, as picture-worthy, the waterfall spread with amazing rapidity, becoming almost a commonplace by the 1620s .”
So Joaneath Spicer once more. Repeating by her question analogously Carel van Mander cited immediately before, who in his didactic poem Grondt der Edel vry Schilderconst (Haarlem 1604) recalled his crossing of the Alps in the mid-1570s and, confirming above rule by exception, jubilated
“ … Ah, those grey shimmering stones which fill the land of the Swiss and separate the French from the Italians, those targets of the north wind … Oh (paint) brushes, become Echo here and imitate the roar of the water that throws itself furiously down between withered rocks. Mark how in the waterfall rock formations hang down like icicles … the stream, as if drunk, runs helter-skelter down rambling, crooked byways; once below, it becomes as snakes …
Who should dream it ? ”
The titling of the picture as Landscape with Saint Jerome in Müllenmeister 241 obviously appeared to the latter as not quite congenial for he added in parentheses Erasmus’ (1908) caption Tyrolese Landscape. For by its 4 × 4 in (10 × 10 cm) below far left here just evokes what twenty years later is dominating subject of the Jerome triad M. 245 & 248/49 of 1624(?)/25. For which present mountainscape from 1606 nevertheless served as quarry and only in such a manner helps providing
that Jerome triad with the final documentary touch .
Correspondingly Müllenmeister disavows his caption for 241 already himself by numbering item 245 as Jerome I and explaining “The picture supposedly represents the earliest version of the subject, which meets perfection in the variants at Bonn and Osnabrück (nos. 248 and 249)”.
Most apparent similarity the centered heavy isolated rock, the 1606 lateral view of which is aligned broadside with but inessential variation in the 1620s and, extremely contrary to 1606, protects the hermit’s cell. In each case before it the necessarily now less detailed and variedly painterly mountain torrent. The proverbial associated single lion enlarged in the 1620s in each case by a whole group placed additionally front left and by this “leaving a thematically fitting, yet in this formulation and ambience exotic impression” (M. in the 1985/86 exhibition catalog to item 54 there, the later M. 248).
The fishing heron lower right of 1606 satiated and standing beside further one in M. 245, passed over without substitution in M. 248, and in M. 249 replaced by a couple tigers, but appearing “up in the air above the rock” (M.), as additionally already in 1606.
The deer, 1606 resting on the right side at the foot of the rock, in M. 245 at that very place, but farther up and standing (“A co-operation of Hans II Savery [1589-1639] in this picture cannot be precluded. The herons on the right and the slightly clumsily inserted deer in the right background support this hypothesis” [M. 245]).
With regard to the designation as Alpine Landscape with Nagler & Wurzbach Müllenmeister justly makes clear that a “rugged, weathered rock formation … yet no alpine massif” is represented. Besides considering “this somewhat strange composition” and notwithstanding the full, unquestionable signature feeling compelled to call attention to distinct indications of the authorship and summing up in conclusion
St. Jerome with the lion and inscription (detail)
“ In the Leningrad picture only fragments of the lion are visible anymore … Rock and tree parts define the impression of the painting. The accessories are arranged very deliberately and ease the austerity of the (for S. unusually) rugged rock parts a little … Notwithstanding many parallels with other works the open three-grounds landscape … raises questions we cannot answer for now.
A discussion about the interesting picture would be beneficial .”
As optimally helpful inevitably only by means of a rendering in full size as given by Major’s engraving
in its present toned , in all nuances most excellent print quality
and in regard of preservation present generally adequately very fine, too, as anything but natural with these oversizes. To be mentioned expressly the trimming to the edge of the subject and the smoothed horizontal and vertical folds, the former not perceptible from front, the latter but a little and only this in backlight here and there also a little thin up to three (most) minimal tiny holes and in such a manner precautionarily as a whole reinforced with acid-free tape (Filmoplast). Likewise done quite as isolated as tiny margin tears. The upper edge of the back with three paper leftovers of 1⅛-1⅝ × ¾-1⅛ in (3-4 × 2-3 cm) from former mounting in points on carton.
Unspent originality —
up to the dramatically torn sky .
Rendered first-hand . With an understanding of the work arising from concerted creative work . Still before the triad from 1624/25 . In the imposing original size . From one plate . In old impression . Of very fine preservation . And marked as very rare already on previous old mounting carton . In short ,
grandiose through and through . And fascinatingly imperial .
Offer no. 16,083 | sold
- See from 1625 for instance, too, the quite similar marginalia with the beggar in Pieter van Santvoort’s Winter, Beck, van Goyen IV (1991), 1057 with illustration.↩
“ Stumbled upon your excellent website while researching Ludwig Beckmann, and must say that I was most impressed. In any case, since you are the closest I know to an authority on antique German books and prints I am wondering if you could help me pinpoint the origin of a piece I have in my dachshund collection … ”
(Mr. & Mrs. J. L., August 14, 2008)