Detail from A Company Making Music by Crispin de Passe I, le vieux, late 16th – early 17th century. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
Three men and three women are in elaborate dress, each with a lace ruff. The group is arranged around a woman playing a virginal. The man in the center plays a transverse flute, the woman to the left holds a book, and the man at the far right, his back to the viewer, holds a lute. A man and woman converse at the far left. The interior is not clearly defined. The back wall has a series of niches on the left, some with statues, a central doorway, and pilasters with a recessed panel on the right.
This engraving by Crispin de Passe the elder first appeared in an emblem book called Hortus Voluptatum (Garden of Love) in 1599. It was also included in an emblem book entitled Nieuwen ieucht spieghel (New Mirror for Youth), published in The Netherlands by an unknown author about 1617 to 1620. The Miller engraving has been trimmed to the platemark, so it has no page numbers or other identifying features, such as a page heading, to determine from which edition it may have been derived. Its placement was different in the two emblem books. Apparently it was the twelfth image in Hortus Voluptatum of 1599; and, it also appeared on page 27 in a 1617 edition of Nieuwen ieucht spieghel which is in the Hague.
The 1617 edition is reproduced in its entirety online in the Emblem Project Utrecht, a Web site devoted to emblem books. There is a fine discussion in an online Introduction to this 1617 edition in the Emblem Project Utrecht which gives the possible author of this book as Zacharias Heyns; the possible publisher as Jan Jansz.; and, its known engraver, Crispin de Passe. It also states in the Introduction that, unlike most emblem books which are more strongly moralizing and didactic, Nieuwen ieucht spieghel is fairly lighthearted. The text on the pages following the engraving is mostly in Dutch, excepting one short verse in French. The Latin caption beneath the engraving is exactly as it appears in the Miller print. It is translated literally as: "The mind and ears delight in varied harmony and honeyed love raptures them for the Muses. Pleasing is one who whispers songs with caressing voice when simultaneously the cittern moves sweet plectrums." Another translation of the Latin is given as: "The mind and the ear delight in harmonious sounds / Which mellifluous love bears to the Muses / Beloved is he who sings with a sweet voice, / While softly stirring the cittern's strings."
See Daniel Franken, L'oeuvre gravé des van de Passe.... This is a book containing a listing of the complete engraved works of all the members of the de Passe family. The Miller engraving is listed under cat. no. 1337, no. 12, p. 251, for Hortus voluptatum of 1599. Here is a translation of its description: "Group of three gentlemen and three ladies in a salon. One lady plays the spinet, another sings; a gentleman plays the flute, a couple dances. Inscribed beneath with 4 lines divided in 2: Concentu...mouet. At the bottom: Crispin de Pass invent et excudit. [measuring] 10.3 cm (high) x 15.4 cm (wide)." The description and platemark match the Miller print exactly. The same engraving was reused in cat. no. 1354, Nieuwen Jeuchtspiegel of ca. 1620, which is listed on p. 274.
The title of the Miller engraving, A Company Making Music, comes from the invoice at the time of its purchase. In the Emblem Project Utrecht Table of Contents page, it is listed by the first part of its Latin inscription, "Concentu vario montesque auresque fruuntur...." Based on the publication dates of Hortus Voluptatum and Nieuwen ieucht spieghel, the Miller engraving probably dates from about 1599 to about 1620, though "late 16th-early 17th century" is given as its date here.
About the Artist
Crispin de Passe I, le vieux, draughtsman, engraver, print publisher and painter, 1564-1637
Crispin de Passe I, le vieux, or the elder, was a Dutch engraver, draughtsman, publisher of prints, and a painter. He was first active in Antwerp but, because of the religious wars, he moved to Aachen in 1589, then to Cologne, Germany, where he worked as a publisher and engraver. Because if his religious affiliation (he was a Mennonite), he also fled Cologne in 1611, finally settling in Utrecht in 1612, where he set up his publishing house. He was a prolific engraver and produced prints in series having particular themes such as the Seasons or the Senses, and he also engraved illustrations for emblem books, Biblical or mythological scenes, and portraits. He engraved prints after his own designs as well as after designs of other artists. Many of his engravings carried dedications to prominent artists, scholars, or public figures in Utrecht. One scholar in particular, Arnhout van Buchell, provided many of the Latin verses that appeared beneath de Passe's engravings. Crispin de Passe II, the younger (ca. 1597-1670) worked closely with his father in the publishing business, acting as his assistant on several series of engravings. The younger de Passe was an even more prolific engraver than his father. Their work was apparently very similar, but the younger artist's style became more distinctively his own after the 1620s. Eventually, the younger de Passe settled in Amsterdam where he also worked as an engraver and publisher.
- The identification of the keyboard instrument as a virginal is courtesy of Jenny Nex, Curator, Royal College of Music Museum, London, 25 April 2007. [back to article]
- See Emblem Project Utrecht Introduction; and, see an image of this engraving on page 27 and the text which accompanies it. [back to article]
- The first translation is courtesy of David Shive, Washington, D.C., 9 February 2007. The second translation is credited to a publication by Ilja M. Veldman, Profit and pleasure: prints books by Crispijn de Passe. Rotterdam: Sounds & Vision, 2001. A copy of this book is in the National Gallery of Art Library, Washington, DC. Call number: N44.P2843V46 2001. [back to article]
- Daniel Franken, L'oeuvre gravé des van de Passe: catalogue raisonné des estampes de Chrispijn senior et junior...graveurs néerlandais des XVIe et XVIIe siècles. Amsterdam: G. W. Hissink, 1975. LC call number: NE670.P2F7 1975. This is a reprint of an 1881 edition published in Amsterdam by F. Muller. [back to article]
- Original text: "Société de trois seigneurs et trois dames dans un salon. Une dame joue de l'épinette, une autre chante; un seigneur joue de la flûte, un couple danse. Souscr. De 4 l. en 2 div.: Concentu...mouet. Sur le sol.: Crispin de Pass invent et excudit. H. 103; L. 154." [back to article]
- See the Emblem Project Utrecht Table of Contents page, under Emblem Book: Content at the left, and scroll down to  Concentu vario.... [back to article]
- For a listing of all of Crispin de Passe's engravings in Hortus Voluptatum of 1599 as well as those which were reused in an undated edition of Nieuwen ieucht spieghel, see Hollstein's Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, ca 1450-1700. Amsterdam: Menno Hertzberger & Co., 1949-<2004>, vol. 15, pp. 285-286, no. 851 and pp. 295-296, no. 859. Prints and Photographs Division. LC call number: NE663.H6. A bibliography on Crispin de Passe, the elder and younger, appears in the opening pages of volume 16, which continues with the engravings of Crispin de Passe the younger. [back to article]
- The biographical information provided here on Crispin de Passe, the elder, and his son, comes from articles on each by Ilja M. Veldman published in Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online, "Crispijn de Passe (I)" and "Crispijn de Passe (II)" (subscription only). Please see these articles for more biographical information as well as sources for further reading. [back to article]