Iconotheca Valvasoriana

Iconotheca Valvasoriana is the limited edition facsimile of Valvasor Collection of Graphic Arts that was published in 2008 by the Janez Vajkard Valvasor Foundation at the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. The original collection of 17th century graphic art is comprised of 7,752 magnificent engravings, etchings, woodcuts and drawings.

J W Valvasor Presentation @ State Library of Victoria

It was first initiated by chief editor and project leader Dr. Lojze Gostiša, co-founder of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 2000. The facsimile edition is a printing masterpiece and the most challenging project undertaken; ten years for completion. Each artistic work is accompanied by critical commentary in three languages: Slovenian, English and Croatian.

Iconotheca Valvasoriana is the personal collection of prints and drawings purchased by Johann Weichard Freiherr von Valvasor during 14 years of travel throughout Europe (1659 – 1672). It is comprised of 17 volumes in folio format, bound in leather; a total of 7,752 prints and drawings by Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, Rembrandt van Rijn, Jacques Callot and German, Austrian, Dutch, Flemish, French, Italian, English and Carynthian masters of 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. The collection has been preserved as Valvasor himself arranged the works; by theme, technique and nationality of the authors.

Now in the Metropolitan Library of Zagreb, the original Collection is part of the Croatian State Archives. It is held in the Department of Prints and Drawings of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts as the major collection of old graphic and drawings in Croatia. It contains works of all the significant graphic artists of Europe of the period. Bishop Aleksandar Mikulić purchased the collection in 1691, together with Valvasor’s library of 1520 books for the Archiepiscopal Library of Zagreb.

Valvasor travelled between 1659 and 1672 through Austria, Germany, Italy, France and Switzerland, paid a visit to Tunisia, stayed in Vienna and Venice and spent two years in Lyon. During this time he studied primarily history, archaeology as well as natural sciences. He collected a great number of mathematical and astronomical devices, books and manuscripts, engravings, etchings, woodcuts and drawings, of various antiquities and rare objects. He held them all at Bogenšperk (Wagensperg), his castle near Litija, Slovenia, which he had bought in 1672. At Bogenšperk he founded in 1678, his own graphic and printing workshop. His engravings and the illustrations for his historical and topographic works were made here.
He faced serious financial difficulties caused by the expenses of publishing his life work Die Ehre des Hertzogthums Crain (4 vol., 1689), so he was compelled to close the workshop and sell his collections and finally the Bogenšperk Castle too. Thus in 1690 his library and collection of graphic arts were purchased by the Zagreb Bishop Aleksandar Mikulić.

In the course of World War I (1916) the print collection together with the books of Valvasor’s former library within the Bibliotheca Metropolitana was transferred to the University of Zagreb Library. In 1948 the owners of the collection, the Zagreb Archbishopric, and the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts settled by agreement that the collection would be kept in the Academy, firstly in its Historical Institute, then in 1951 in the Graphics Room.

Valvasor himself glued the sheets of his collection of graphic arts into a journal of 18 volumes, 40 x 30 cm, bound in leather, with a characteristic ornamental decoration on the spine, with a title page in German, and with his ex libris. Already in the era of Bishop Vrhovac the 4th volume was missing so that there are only 17 volumes remaining today.

The very beginning of Valvasor’s print collection was probably in the analogous collection of the painter G. Wubitsch (J. Bobič) whose signature of initial letters can be found on the back of many of sheets, particularly those ones by Dutch and Flemish and German authors. The sheets were probably acquired by Valvasor after Wubitsch’s death, about the middle of the 17th century. G. Wubitsch obviously collected them according to aesthetic criteria, as quality art works, partly also as ideas for paintings. Valvasor continued in the same direction and so collected a large number of excellent, already in his time famous and precious engravings, etchings, woodcuts and drawings, but he acquired and glued on into the volumes a very large number of the specimens of applied graphic arts: geographical maps, broadsheets, prayer pictures, playing cards, etc., without regard to their artistic value. In such a way many sheets have been preserved which by reason of their ephemeral character did not attract particular attention and usually cannot be found in similar collections. Therefore Iconotheca Valvasoriana is not only of great artistic but also of cultural and historical significance. Its significance is the greater for it has till now retained its original shape given by the collector himself, without any outside intervention excepted the detailed review and a kind of handwritten catalogue by the Canon Dr. Lj. Ivančan in 1907 – 1909.

The constituent parts of the Collection are disposed in volumes: from Volume I to XII thematically, from Volumes XIII to XV according to the national origin of authors, in Volume XVI partly thematically and in partly according to technique, in Volumes XVII and XVIII exclusively according to technique (watercolour drawings). The volumes consisting of prints contain, besides the sheets of top quality, also a great number of copies by great masters as well as those intended for a broader public. The prints were partly glued on the sheets forming part of the volume, partly bound directly into the volume; when they were in a larger format, they were folded to the size of the volume.

First three volumes contain the scenes taken from the Old and New Testaments, the representations of the Holy Virgin and Jesus, of saints and hermits; these are mostly the works by Dutch, Flemish and German authors or prints marked only by monograms, and the prints intended for the broader public, with the publisher’s address only.

Volume I (429 sheets) includes the biblical representations from the Old Testament, excellent achievements mostly by Dutch and Flemish authors (the families Sadeler, Galle, Passe, Wierich, then P. v. d. Borcht, J. v. Londerseel and others) and German engravers (the families Kilian and Küssel, then D. Custos, M. Merian, J. Umbach, and others), far less by members of Italian and French schools (A. Tempesta, St. della Bella, N. Cochin, J. Duvet, A. Clouet, and others), as well as a great number of copies after named artists (P. P. Rubens e.g.) and prints intended for the broad public. Among them there are numerous little representations of the Holy Virgin, Jesus, or saints, which cut in single pieces were used as prayer pictures.

Volume II (480 sheets) contains the biblical representations from the New Testament, of the Holy Virgin and of Jesus, as mentioned mostly works by Dutch, Flemish and German authors (besides those enumerated in Vol. I: F. v. Steen, Z. Dolendo, J. v. Gheyn, J. v.d. Nypoort, J. Sandrart, L. Vorsterman, S. & B. a Bolswert, D. Kruger, M. Sommer, and others) and by some Italians (S. Scolari, G. B. Pasqualini, M. Kolunič-Rota, and others). There are some copies after A.v. Dyck and P.P. Rubens, as well as prints intended for the broader public of various publishers.

In Volume III (466 sheets) there are mostly representations of saints and hermits. Besides numerous prints by the Sadeler family and their copyists the works by D. Teniers, J. Barra, M. de Bye, P. de Baillu, J. de Weert, by German artists J. Umbach, L. Kilian, D. Custos, G. Merlo, and others, and by Italian J. Picini, and finally modest anonymous contributions, bearing publisher’s address only.

Volume V (298 sheets) is filled with representations of sibyls, allegories of free arts, months, seasons, elements, cardinal points, and senses. Dutch and Flemish and German authors and monogrammists (the families Sadeler, Passe, Galle, Collaert, then B. Zaech, P. de Jode, C. Cort, S. Frisius, G. Fentzek, D. v. Coornhaert, A. Eisenhoudt; and others) are predominant, Italian and French masters (the Ferrara School, Ag. Carracci, D. Rosseti, N. de Poilly, N. Regnesson, J. Picart, A. Tempesta, A. Salamanca, and others) do not keep abreast with them in number. There are also anonymous sheets intended for the broader public, with publisher’s address only.

Volume VI (245 sheets) contains the representations of costumes, fireworks, theatre performances, architectonic views, mathematical, geometrical devices, and others. A great number of prints are by anonymous authors, bearing just the address of publishers, mostly inhabitants of German, a few of French towns. Among the authors are the above mentioned Dutch, Flemish and German artists (the Sadeler family, C. Passe, D. v. Coornhaert, J. Collaert, V. de Vries, J. Deutecum, M. Kiissel, and others), but also more Italian and French ones (E. Vico, C. Congio, J. B. Franco, R. Boyvin, V. Regnesson, and others). Similarly as in other volumes there are also sheets intended for mass consumption, only with publisher’s address.

Volume VII (328 sheets) contains a great number of geographical maps, coats-of-arms, vedute of towns and ports, and others. Anonymous prints for the broader public, published by various publishers, are predominant. We also find sheets cut by artists, e. g. R. Boyvin, C. Cort, B. Pittoni, M. Küssel, F. Place, R. Zeeman, L. Schnitzer, and others. Or authors of geographical maps designed and made by Jansonius, Mercator, J. & W. Blaeu, N. Visscher, J. Sandrart, M. Küssel, S. Glavach. Among the authors of town vedute, A. Trost and P. Ritter-Vitezovič are to be mentioned.

In Volume VIII (328 sheets) the broadsheets – newsletters, representations of historical events and solemn parades, pictures of peasants, musicians, beggars, madmen, caricatures, and others are included. Prints by anonymous masters bear publisher’s address only, other prints are by German, Dutch and Flemish, French or Italian authors (J. v. d. Nypoort, A. Ostade, J. de Visscher, P. Serouter, J. v. Gheyn, G. Swannenburch, J. Saenredam, W. Holler, M. Küssel, L. Schnitzer, J. Marot, F. Chauveau, Le Pautre, H. M. Lorch, A. Tempesta, and others).

Volume IX (312 sheets) comprises the representations of battles, hunting and fishing, wild animals, birds, insects, flowers, plants, trees and fruits, and others. Once more the majority are by Dutch, Flemish and German masters (G. v. Wolfgang, M. Küssel, C. Galle, L. Vorsterman, the Sadeler family,  J. Collaert,  D. Danckerts,  C. de Mallery,  J. Visscher,  J. Hoefnagel,  J. Thünckel, T. de Bry, M. Merian, and others),  only a few by Italian and French artists (N. Cochin, Marie Briot,  H. le Roy,  H. Farinati,  E. Vico, and others). Some sheets are anonymous, with publisher’s address only.

In Volume X (274 sheets) there are representations of themes taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Virgil’s Aeneid, the cycles on Jason and Hercules, as well as representations on poetic and love themes.  Besides the members of the Sadeler family are two artists connected with H. Goltzius,  J. v. Gheyn and R. de Baudous, then  C. de Passe, Ph. Galle,  L. Scharer,  G. A. Wolfgang,  L. Kilian,  D. Custos,  further C. Mellan,  R. Boyvin,  R. Persyn,  C. David,  T. de Leu,  P. Testa,  P. Veneziano,  Master with the Dice. There are also some anonymous copies by famous artists (e. g. Marcantonio Raimondi), with publisher’s address only, and sheets intended for the broader public.

Volume XI (332 sheets) contains the representations of themes taken from Ovid’s Ars amandi, the  Bacchanals, scenes with putti,  the naked human body, and others. The authors belong mostly to the Italian school (A. Mantegna, Master with the Dice, B. Baderna,  Ch. Alberti,  M. da Ravenna after Marcantonio Raimondi,  G. Bonasone, Ag. Carracci,  G. Campagnola, E. Vico, J. Franco,  G. Ghisi, and others), to the Dutch and Flemish (H. Goltzius,  J. v. Gheyn,  Z. Dolendo,  J. Matham, the Sadeler family,  J. Saenredam,  J. & H. Muller,  P. Soutman,  C. Galle, and others) and the German and French masters (W. Hollar,  L. Kilian,  M. Godtich,  H. Ulrich,  J. Umbach,  Fr. Langlois, P. Brebiette, M. Dorigny, R. Picou, and others).  There are also some prints by anonymous authors – copies, with publisher’s address.

Volume XII (447 sheets), the last of thematic volumes; contains the portraits, mostly by German and Dutch and Flemish, a few by French, fewer still by Italian authors (the families Kilian, Passe and Custos, then J. v. d. Nypoort,  J. de Heyden,  C. David,  E. Sadeler,  P. Isselburg,  J. Sandrart, M. Merian,  L. Schnitzer, and others, J. Grandhomme, L. Gaultier, T. de Leu, H. H. Quiter). Some portraits were cut by the artists of the Bogenšperk graphic workshop, perhaps also by P. Ritter-Vitezovič.

Volume XIII (399 sheets) was composed according to the national origin of authors and mostly comprises prints by French and a few by German authors (the families Le Pautre and Perelle, I. Silvestre, I. I. Thoumeyser), then some copies by Le Pautre by Susanna Maria v. Sandrart and some works by M. Merian.

Volume XIV (339 sheets) contains primarily the prints by J. Callot and his associates and copyists (N. Cochin, F. Collignon, A. Bosse, M. Gerardini, P. Godtich, G. v. Scheyndel), and the works cut by St. della Bella, P. Quast and J. Amman.

Volume XV (415 sheets) contains the works by German engravers, by monogrammists, and by French and Dutch and Flemish artists of the 15th and 16th centuries and their copyists. Among authors there are: A. Dürer, H. Aldegrewer, G. Pencz, B. & H. S. Beham, Master B. I., V. Solis, M. Zasinger (Zündt), H. Brosamer, H. Lemberger, P. Roddelstet-Gottland, H. S. Lautensack, D. & J. Hopfer, I. Binck, Master with the Mousetrap, A. Altdorfer, B. Jenichen, M. Schongauer, L. v. Leyden, P. Maes, A. Claesz, J. T. de Bry, H. Wiericx, J. v. d. Velde, H. v. Rijn Rembrandt, S. de Laune, J. Gourmont, and some anonymous masters.

Volume XVI (277 sheets) contains coats-of-arms (also in copper engraving technique), together with the complete woodcuts collection. The authors are above all German artists (A. Dürer, L. Cranach, H. S. Beham, V. Solis, J. Amman, and others), further the Italian masters of chiaroscuro (J. N. da Vicentino, U. da Carpi, A. Andreani, and others), French monogrammists and anonymous copyists.

Volume XVII (465 sheets) contains drawings by European artists, mainly of 17th century, executed with pencil, sepia, chalk, bistre, further watercolour drawings, coloured miniature pictures on parchment (mostly with religious content), initial letters (gold-plated), impressions of leaves. The most representative and complete as a collection are the drawings by J. v. d. Nypoort and D. Teniers.

Volume XVIII (163 sheets) contains watercolour drawings or watercolours of flowers, fruits, leaves, birds, insects, animals, then the patterns for Idrija laces, all made very likely by Valvasor himself or his close associates.

Since the Valvasor Collection has been kept in the Print Room, it has been systematically, professionally, scientifically treated and researched in accordance with the contractual obligations of the Custodian – the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts (JAZU).

As for museological treatment in a limited sense, the entire Collection has been put on microfilm together with Ivančan’s handwritten catalogue. More than 2000 prints have been photographed and enlarged up to 13 x 18 cm size. Finally, 1703 prints have been restored and 988 lined with paper. As a rule, restored and lined with paper – were all the sheets which have been studied and exhibited; a certain number of other sheets has been restored also, and all the sheets studied and a number of those still being studied, have been photographed.

As a result of the scientific research of the Collection, exhibitions were organized and respective catalogues prepared. Till now the following exhibitions have taken place:

  • in 1955 – (1) J. Callot, Etchings; (2) A. Durer, Woodcuts and Copper Engravings;
  • in 1971 – (3) Madonna’s Figure; in: Valvasor’s Collection – Prints by A. Durer and his Copyists and Contemporaries;
  • in 1971 – (4) The Baroque Theatre in Prints;
  • in 1972 – (5) J. v. d. Nypoort, Prints and Drawings; (6) L. Cranach and his Circle;
  • in 1973 – (7) M. Schongauer, L. van Leyden and their Copyists;
  • in 1974 – (8) H. Goltzius and his Circle;
  • in 1978 – (9) Rubens’ Print School and his Copyists;
  • in 1979 – The Nuremberg Minor Masters of the 16th century.

The first two exhibitions were organized by Dr. Stella Ubel who was the curator of the Collection and Director of the Print Room at the time. She left the handwritten catalogues of the French, Dutch and German graphic artists of the 16th and 17th centuries in the Collection as well as of the works done in Valvasor’s own workshop.

The exhibitions from 3 to 10 were prepared and arranged by Renata Gotthardi-Škiljan, curator of the Collection till now. She has published the monographs, catalogues scientifiques, for the exhibitions 3, 4, 5 and 7, and has prepared analogous handwritten catalogues for exhibitions 6 and 8. She has also prepared such catalogue for the exhibition: A. Altdorfer and his Copyists (not held yet) as well as brought together all the materials for catalogues for exhibitions 9 and 10. The same is valid for following future exhibitions: French Graphic Artists of the 16th century, J. Callot and his Associates and Copyists, Prints of the Perelle Family.

(Translated by Ivan Gotthardi Škiljan, edited by the Institute for Slovenian Studies of Victoria Inc.)