Description: Cologne: c. Mid 17th Century
Wilhelm Altzenbach (image engraver); Joseph Kling (border engraver); Jacob’s Ladder; Gerhard Altzenbach, Engraving
Illustration of a scene from the Bible story in Genesis 28:10-22 that is popularly known as “Jacob’s ladder.” Jacob stops for the night during a journey to find a wife. Laying his head upon a stone, he falls asleep and dreams of what is variously translated as “stairway,” “ramp” or “ladder” set on the ground and reaching to the sky, with angels of God traveling up and down on it. God speaks to Jacob in the dream, telling him the ground beneath him is hereafter assigned to Jacob and his descendants.
The print depicts Jacob's dream within a lush, separately engraved decorative floral border. The border is a tour de force of Baroque botanical engraving, showing tulips, day lilies, daffodils, carnations, roses, irises, and ripened fruits. The combination of an elaborate floral border by one artist enclosing a smaller biblical scene by another is reminiscent of Medieval manuscript illumination.
This high quality, richly inked print was struck from two different plates as issued; the center image has its own plate mark. It may be one of the 20 plates of biblical subjects that Gerhard and Wilhelm Altzenbach are known to have issued together.
Location of Origin: Europe
Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 inches, central image plate mark; 11 x 15 inches, border plate mark; 12 x 15.5 inches, overall
Primary Classification: Fine Art : Prints and Multiples : Engraving
Expertise: Wilhelm Altzenbach was a copperplate engraver who flourished around the middle of the 17th century. He worked in Strasbourg, Cologne and Paris, and executed 20 plates of biblical subjects with Gerhard Altzenbach, an editor and perhaps an engraver, who also worked in Cologne and Strasbourg. Wilhelm took part in the publishing business of Gerhard and was his successor (Bénézit), though their exact family relationship is unknown. Among other works, Wilhelm is known to have produced a portrait of Louis II de Bourbon on horseback.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual light overall toning, wear, soft creases. Margins short, especially left margin, but extend beyond plate mark. Upper right corner margin and few minor marginal chips, short tears restored as professionally laid on thin Japanese tissue support. Minor staining in outer margins. Overall rich impressions.
References: Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 1, p. 131.Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1985. pp. 42-43.Williamson, George C., ed. Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. London: G. Bell and Sons: 1930. Vol. 1, p. 31.