New antiquarian acquisition for music special collections

February 10, 2023
Ray Heigemeir
Virgin and Child with St. Anne (detail)

Guest post by Christina Kim

Virgin and Child with St. Anne (1584) is a recent aquisition that complements the Encomium musices set of engravings.

The Virgin Mary and her mother, St. Anne, are seated on an ornate throne, lovingly gazing at the Christ Child on his mother’s lap. The rays of light crown the child, distinguishing himself from his mother and grandmother’s disc-shaped halos. Mary gently presents the child with grapes; Little Jesus touches them, both with their right hands. His grandmother, St. Anne, caresses Christ’s left arm with her left hand while holding a book open with her right hand.

Above the throne, the baldachin is covered by the clouds, showcasing a large choirbook open to Cornelis Verdonck’s Ave gratia plena, a four-voice (SATB) motet. Seven singing putti surround the book: one holding up the choir book, two playing instruments–vielle on the left and cornett on the right, and the rest holding the sides of the book, two on each side.

At the foot of the throne, amidst the flowers, is written Mater mea et fratre mei hi svnt qvi verbum Dei avdivnt et facivnt [My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it, Luke 8:21]. On the left side of the throne is an illustration of a carpenter at work, and to the right side is a tall empty hall. 

This picture-motet engraving is done by a mysterious “P Bailly,” after a painting by Maerten de Vos. Even though we are uncertain about the artist, the inspirer Maerten de Vos (1532-1603) was one of the most important painters and draughtsmen in Antwerp at that time. A picture motet, Bildmotett, is a religious painting that accurately represents an existing motet. In this engraving, however, the text underlays of the tenor and bassus are missing. There is another picture motet–with the same inspiration–by Jan Sadeler; the subtle differences are rather charming, including the facial expressions and seemingly important information, such as the text underlays in the motet and the content of the book. See what other differences you can find!

Virgin and Child with S. Anne (engraving)