Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Jesuits and the Wierixes

There was close cooperation between the Wierix family and the Society of Jesus. Out of a total of 2,333 prints made by the Wierixes, at least 10 percent have a clear Jesuit connection. Many of these engravings were used by Jesuit missionaries all over the world, and were, often with stunning results, copied by European Jesuits or abroad by local artists for churches and other buildings in Europe, India, China, Japan, and the Americas. The work of the Wierixes thus became a hallmark of Jesuit identity and iconography.

It is remarkable that Wierix was explicitly mentioned in the Dutch translation of the Latin jubilee volume that the Plantin Press published in 1640 for the Flemish Jesuits on the occasion of the first centenary of their order. In the opening lines of his poem on the worldwide oppression of Jesuits—here symbolized in an emblem with a printing press—

Dutch Jesuit poet Adriaen Poirters (1605-1674) wrote:

My press is famous for its finest plates
left to us by Albert Durer or Wierix,
or still cut today by a skilful master:
rarely if ever art has died as time goes by.

The most important body of work by the Wierixes for the Jesuits is the 153 engravings for the influential meditation book by the Spanish Jesuit Jeronimo Nadal, Evangelicae historiae imagines, of which the first edition appeared in 1593 in Antwerp, although negotiations about the involvement of the Wierixes had already started in 1586. It is "the earliest such series of the whole of the New Testament of any size or importance ever produced," according to Church historian Fr. John O'Malley, SJ, and "may represent the Jesuits' greatest and most successful artistic achievement of the 16th century," in the words of art historian Gauvin Alexander Bailey.

Link (here) to the complete article by Fr. Paul Begheyn, S.J.

A Wierix of St. Ignatius of Loyola

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