16th-Century Ornament Prints

A collection of highly elaborate ornament prints, mostly in the grotesque style, from the collection of the Rijksmuseum. On the one hand, prints such as these had a functional value, serving as inspiration for craftsmen, such as goldsmiths or carpenters, whose adorning of objects and buildings with ornate designs was in much demand at the time. On the other hand, they are stunning pieces of artwork in their own right, twisting as they do traditional motifs from Roman art and architecture into truly surreal scenes, teeming with curious detail, which almost seem to exist apart from space and time.

The majority of the designs featured here were created by Flemish architect and designer Cornelis Floris II, also known as Cornelis Floris De Vriendt, (1514 – 1575), whose style was hugely influence throughout Northern Europe. A design by one of Cornelis's brothers, Jacob Floris, who was a stained glass painter, is also featured, as well as a couple by Cornelius Bos. Most of the engravings were carried out by the esteemed Van Doetecum brothers, Johannes and Lucas. Hieronymus Cock (1518 – 1570), who is listed as the publisher of almost all of the prints listed here, collaborated with Cornelis Floris on two major works featuring designs for monuments and ornaments. The first one titled Veelderley veranderinghe van grotissen, or Many varieties of grotesques, was published in 1556, followed by Veelderley niewe inuentien van antycksche sepultueren or The many new designs of antique sculptures in 1557. Cock is considered to be the most important print publisher of the late Renaissance in Northern Europe, proving instrumental in turning printmaking from an activity of individual artists and craftsmen into an industry based on the division of labour.

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