PASSE, the younger, Crispijn van de. Les Vrais Pourtraits de quelques unes des plus grandes dames de la Chrestiente, desguisees en Bergeres. I. Partie. (- Part II: les Damoiselles Nobles & Dames de Qualité… - Part III. les Pourtraits des Femmes et Filles d'honorable Marchants... Part IV. Le Choeur des Muses, avec leur Chansons a l'honneur des vertueuses Femmes et Filles). Four parts in one, separately titled. 57 leaves, including engravings, most with text on versos. Titles and text in French and Dutch. Woodcut music. Illustrated with an engraved additional title ("Le Bouquet des Bergeres"), 36 engravings containing 72 oval engraved portraits of women, printed on rectos with the letterpress verse captions on facing versos, and a final allegorical engraving of the Sphinx and the Shepherd, all by Crispijn van de Passe. Oblong 8vo., 145 x 190 mm, bound in later vellum over pasteboards. Amsterdam: Joost Broersz for the author, 1640.
First Edition of this famous series of engraved portraits of women, picturing sovereigns and noble ladies of Europe, noble young (unmarried) women, and wives and daughters of the prosperous merchant class.
The work is of interest for historians of the Dutch Golden Age, as the 72 portraits are of real, individual women, their identity disguised by pseudonyms, including members of the most distinguished Dutch families. It is also a significant document in the history of costume. All but a few of the women are dressed in the fashionable disguise of shepherdesses, an idyllic pastoral mode made popular by paintings of the Utrecht school in the 1620s, which by 1640 had spread to theatre, literature, and fashion. Pastoral dress was, significantly, thought to be "above" the constant changes of fashion, and Crispijn explains in his preface that he chose to dress his ladies in this manner in order to avoid the "almost ridiculous" appearance of fashions gone stale.
Each portrait is accompanied by a French quatrain with a Dutch prose translation on the facing verso. These poems, which dwell on "the ladies' relations with the opposite sex" (Veldman, p. 330), provide no clue to the subjects' identities, to be divined by the reader from clues contained in the poem accompanying the final sphinx and shepherd print.
Among the ladies depicted are "Marie de Medicis, the queens of Spain, England, Sweden and Denmark, Amalia van Solms, the Duchesse of Lorraine and the Countess of Culemborg" (Veldman). The women of the burgher class, shown in part 3, were mostly members of Crispijn's circle of friends in Amsterdam and Utrecht and have proven most difficult for later scholars to identify. Part 4 is devoted to artistic women known to the author personally, portrayed as different muses. Several gifted artists have been identified from this group, including Anna and Cornelia Vossius, the painter and engraver Barbara van den Broeck, and one Maria van der Heyden, whom he refers to as his cousin.
This is one of a handful of print books written and illustrated by Crispijn van de Passe the younger (1594-1670), who worked mainly on commission for others after 1644. An outspoken Orangist, he became a political journalist and published illustrated lampoons, a few of which landed him in jail. He died in poverty in 1670, the last survivor of his talented family. A fine copy with distinguished provenance. Slight soiling to title, some faint marginal discoloration, small light dampstain in upper margins of first few leaves and lower margins of last few leaves. It is important to stress that this copy offers the rare first impressions of these portraits, not to be confused with the inferior reprints.
PROVENANCE: Sir Thomas Brooke, with ex-libris; Édouard Rahir, with ex-libris (his sale, Part V, Paris 1937, lot 1517).
D. Franken, L'Oeuvre gravée des Van de Passe 1871. Colas 2290. Lipperheide 525. Brunet I, 22. Gay-Lemonnyer III:1381. Ilja M. Veldman, Crispijn de Passe and his Progeny (1564-1670), pp. 329-331. Cf. M. Loutitt, "The Romantic Dress of Saskia van Ulenborch: its pastoral and theatrical associations," The Burlington Magazine, vol. 115, no. 92 (1973), pp. 317-326 (citing the Vrais Pourtraits at length as a key work for the understanding of several Rembrandt paintings).
Item nr. 123770