11.3.14

Arent van Bolten


The Dutch artist Arent van Bolten was born at Zwolle c. 1573. He is known to have been in Italy in 1596 and 1602. By 1603 he was back in his home-town, where he married one Birgitta Lantinck. The couple had eight children. He was a silversmith by profession. Bolten's designs were engraved by Pierre Firens around 1604-1616. At some point he moved with his family from Zwolle to Leeuwarden, where he died, c. 1626-1633.

Van Bolten was a silversmith and sculptor, but got especially well known for his drawings. His most frequent subjects were grotesque figures and monsters, biblical and mythological scenes and scenes from peasant life.

Arent van Bolten, Grotesque Animal (Hybrid), 1610-30
bronze
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam informs Van Bolten was known for his work as a silversmith and sculptor, but especially for his drawings. Besides his designs for work in precious metals he drew numerous drawings of grotesque figures and monsters, biblical and mythological scenes as well as pictures of peasant life. Several of his grotesques and ornaments appeared in print and were widely distributed.

The Rijksmuseum has a great collection of engravings based in his sketches in its online database.

Bolten’s reputation rests mainly on his drawings, particularly an album in the British Museum that bears the title "BOLTEN VAN SWOL/TEEKENINGE", whose drawings range from ornament, objects in precious metals, grotesque figures and monsters, to figural scenes from the Bible and mythology, the Shrovetide carnival, Commedia dell’arte and scenes from peasant life.

This British Museum album was compiled by an unknown collector ca. 1637, who had the drawings numbered, and grouped into thematic sections. The collector wrote: "Some of van Bolten’s drawings of monsters and fanciful animals bear a resemblance to those in the prints of Christoph Jamnitzer […] and Wendel Dietterlin the Younger." But see also those by Cornelis Floris, and Van Vianen. Several of the designs in the album had been "turned into meticulously-faithful prints" and published in Paris between 1604 and 1616 by a Flemish-born printseller named Pierre Firens.

A number of fantastic bronze animals have been attributed to van Bolten on the basis of stylistic similarities to his designs known from the drawings and the prints. Four different models have been documented. At least ten examples of the birdlike creature are known. Some of them seem to have been designed as novelty lamps, where the wick (and the flame) would come out of the creature’s mouth. Another figurine, of which just a single example is recorded, depicts a monster with a reptile’s head, a bird’s body and legs, with snail-shells in place of wings. A third statuette shows a creature with the head of a buffalo, the body of a frog, with stylised wings in place of forelegs, and the hind legs of a hoofed animal. It is not known whether these bronzes were van Bolten’s own work, or whether they were modelled from his drawings, or the engraved copies thereof.

Resources
Amsterdam Rijksmuseum Collections
• Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Dawn of the Golden Age—Northern Netherlandish Art 1580-1620, December 1993 - March 1994
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
The Public Domain Review
• Aeron Alfrey, Monster Brains, 30.4.2007
• Misteraitch, Giornale Nuovo, 17.5.2007
• Marinni, Livejournal, 30.1.2012
• Roger Latour, Flora Urbana, 14.2.2014
• Frank Forte, Horror Illustrated, 26.2.2014.

Christoph Jamnitzer, New Grotesques Book, 1610
• First title page text, in German:
« Neuw
Grotteßken Buch,
lnventirt gradirt und verlegt
Durch
Christoph Jamnitzer Bürg: und Goltsch: in Nürnberg.
Ein Uralt Antiquischer Tempel
Vol Nagelnewes seltzams grempel
Dienstlich für all, so Kunst belieben
Von Neuem jetzt her für getriben
Hof nicht daß soll ohn Frucht abgehn
Wems nich geliebt, der laß es stehn.
Anno 1610
. »
In French:
« Nouveau livre de grottesques,
inventé, gravé à l'eau-forte, et édité
par
Christophe Jamnitzer, bourgeois et orfèvre à Nuremberg.
Un très vieux temple d'antiquités
Plein d'un fouillis rare et battant neuf
Pour servir à tous ceux qui aiment l'art
De nouveau édité présentement
J'espère qu'il ne restera pas sans fruit
Que celui-là le laisse auquel il ne convient pas.
Anno 1610
. »
• Second title page, in German:
Der fadesckisch Radesco Baum
Deßgleich man hatt gesehen kaum
Dann Er tregt wunderliche Frücht
Wie man allhie vor Augen sieht.
Durch Christoff Jamnitzer Bürger und Goltschmidt Inn.
Nürmberg. o. J.
In French:
L'Arbre fadesque Radesco
Auquel on ne vit guère jamais pareil
Car il porte d'étranges fruits.
Comme ici même on voit devant les yeux.
Commentaire:
Comme le Marché aux drôleries (Schnackenmarckt) présente une foire d'ornements, la planche de l'Arbre Radesco en est un verger : le spectateur est invité à entrer dans le jeu de la découverte, par une promenade visuelle faite de surprises et d'amusements. Il doit y reconnaître ça et là des motifs récurrents de l'orfèvrerie nurembergeoise depuis un demi-siècle, voire des objets d'orfèvrerie eux-mêmes : la petite dame à la large jupe ronde apparaissant en haut à droite évoque un de ces Verres de mariée à renverser dont raffolait la société allemande du seizième siècle.
Le Germanisches Nationalmuseum en conserve un exemple des années 1620 réalisé par Caspar II Beutmüller très semblable (Inv. HG 12236). Le jeu induit par l'objet, dit Trinkspiel, s'appuyant sur les mêmes codes de surprise et de plaisanterie que les motifs proposés par Jamnitzer, constituerait la raison de sa présence.
Cette page de titre sert également de sommaire, puisqu'elle annonce un certain nombre d'ornements qui seront présentés dans les pages suivantes.
• 69 Images version in La pupille.

Additional Material
Rijksstudio Akermariano: The Grotesque as Structure and Aesthetic Category
The Grotesque Times

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