Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 28

A curious truncation of Aegidius Sadeler’s Wisdom Conquers Ignorance
Fig. 5 / Detail of fig. 2.
Fig. 6 / Bartholomeus
Spranger, Wisdom Conquers
Ignorance, ca. 1596-1600,
oil on canvas, 163 x 117 cm,
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches
Fig. 7 / Detail of fig. 1.
Attached to the front of this table is a depiction of the
creased and worn lower portion of Sadeler’s Wisdom
Conquers Ignorance, which is based upon a painting by
Bartholomeus Spranger (figs. 5 & 6). Of the several
differences between Sadeler’s print and Spranger’s
painting, the most fascinating occurs in the lower right
of the print where Sadeler has the personification of
sculpture delineate the breast of a personification of
painting (fig. 7). This clever conceit is echoed in the
foreground where Clio, the muse of history, inscribes
in the margin a passage from Ecclesiasticus (10:28),
a text on ethical behaviour written about 180 B.C.
by the scribe Joshua ben Sirach. Clio’s quill rests
on the phrase that translates, “The ignorant will
not be honoured.”12 In his painted version of the
print, Pereda isolates this adage so that it functions
essentially like the motto of an emblem.
A curious truncation of Aegidius Sadeler’s Wisdom Conquers Ignorance
What is curious about Pereda’s depiction of the
engraving is that in contrast to the verisimilitude
of all other objects in the painting, the print does
not exist as the artist has rendered it. It is known
from Pereda’s biographer, Antonio Palomino, that
Pereda actually collected prints to augment his visual
knowledge. Palomino reported that the artist “owned
more things for the study of Painting than anyone else
I know.”13 Given the accuracy of the portion he does
depict, it seems likely that Pereda’s collection included
an impression of Sadeler’s engraving. Although it
is possible that he had a damaged impression and
therefore painted only the portion of the print that he
possessed, this does not explain why Pereda completed
the painted fragment with full margins as though what
he depicts is a complete, independent print rather than
only a portion of one.


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