Menu logoclose icon

Bowdoin College BCMA Logo Museum of Art

    Type: inscription
    Location: on plaque held by putti, top center in composition
    Materials: pen and brown ink
    Type: inscription
    Location: on ribbon center left in composition
    Materials: pen and brown ink
  • "RAVWE / WET"
    Type: inscription
    Location: on tablet held by figure at left in composition
    Materials: pen and brown ink
    Type: inscription
    Location: on ribbon center right in composition
    Materials: pen and brown ink
    Type: inscription
    Location: on pedestal bottom in composition
    Materials: pen and brown ink
  • "C No. 22/Diepenbeeck/2"
    Type: inscription
    Location: verso
    Materials: pen and brown ink
  • James Bowdoin III( Collector, Boston) - 1811.
  • Bowdoin College Museum of Art( Museum, Brunswick, Maine) 1811- . Bequest
  • Old Master Drawings at Bowdoin College
    • Bowdoin College Museum of Art. ( 5/17/1985 - 7/7/1985)
    • Clark Art Institute. ( 9/14/1985 - 10/27/1985)
    • University of Kansas. ( 1/19/1986 - 3/2/1986)
    • Art Gallery of Ontario. ( 5/17/1986 - 6/29/1986)
  • Drawing on Basics
    • Bowdoin College Museum of Art. ( 10/14/1993 - 12/19/1993)
  • Old Master Drawings from the Bowdoin College Museum of Art
    • Timken Museum of Art. ( 5/13/2005 - 8/14/2005)
Type: catalogue
Author: Henry Johnson
Document Title: Catalogue of the Bowdoin College Art Collections
Publ. Place: Brunswick, Maine
Reference: 95
Remarks: (as Unknown)
Publisher: Bowdoin College
Section Title: Pt. I, The Bowdoin Drawings
Date: 1885

Type: catalogue
Author: Bowdoin College Museum of Art
Document Title: Bowdoin Museum of Fine Arts, Walker Art Building
Edition: 4th
Publ. Place: Brunswick, Maine
Reference: 95
Remarks: (as Unknown)
Publisher: Bowdoin College
Section Title: Descriptive Catalogue of the . . .
Date: 1930

Type: Ph.D. diss.
Author: D. Steadman
Document Title: Abraham van Diepenbeeck
Publ. Place: Princeton
Location: vol. I, p. 78
Reference: vol. 2, pl. 173
Remarks: (as van Diepenbeeck)
Publisher: Princeton University
Section Title: 17th Century Flemish Painter
Date: 1973

Type: exhibition catalogue
Author: David P. Becker
Document Title: Old Master Drawings at Bowdoin College
Publ. Place: Brunswick, Maine
Location: pp. 46-47, 49
Reference: no. 20
Publisher: Bowdoin College
Date: 1985

Original Mount

This design remained among the anonymous drawings until Haverkamp Begemann recognized it as the work of van Diepenbeeck in 1966. The attribution was affirmed by Michael Jaffé and David Steadman, who identified it as the design for the engraved title of Costumen van het Graefschap van Vlaenderen by Laurens van den Hane, published in Antwerp and Ghent in 1674, a lengthy (over 1,000 pages) compendium of the laws and regulations of the County of Flanders. Van Diepenbeeck's drawing was engraved in reverse by Cornelis van Caukercken (1626–1680).

Van Diepenbeeck designed more than fifty title pages and book illustrations between the late 1630s and his death in 1675. Steadman points out that the artist's major period of activity designing book illustrations began after he had been expelled from the painter's guild and after the death of Rubens in 1640. Rubens had himself designed quite a few engraved book title pages, achieving a new standard in the art. He had transformed the primarily decorative title into a compact and rich visual synopsis of the contents of a book. Antwerp at this time was one of the most active publishing centers in Europe, and van Diepenbeeck had a ready market for his prints, which were perhaps inevitably strongly influenced by Rubens's designs. Most of these were after drawings and designs specifically intended for publishers rather than reproductions after van Diepenbeeck’s paintings (Diels 2009, 62). Since he did not seek out publishers to reproduce his oeuvre, Diepenbeeck likely turned to print designs as simply providing more income (Diels 2009, 88). Only one signed etching executed by the artist has survived of a peasant and donkey (Diels 2009, 202).

The iconography of this drawing relates to the history and laws of Flanders, which appears personified as the central figure, unifying earlier common law on the left and the figure of Justice with her sword on the right (assisted by a flying putto holding a plumb bob, a further symbol of Justice). The putto at the left is shown applying himself diligently to a grindstone, with a banner reading "Dark and murky becomes light and clear." The large basket behind the main figures contains numerous tools and symbols of craftsmen's trades.

The Bowdoin title design contains several elements used in previous titles by Rubens and others of his school: the platform upon which the figures stand, which serves as the tablet for the title; the unifying element of the sculptural niche behind the figures; the complex iconography; and the central group of three figures joined together. The latter group is reminiscent of Rubens's design for S. Pietrasanta, De Symbolis Heroicis, Antwerp, 1634.

At least seven other drawings by van Diepenbeeck for book titles have been located by Steadman in Moscow, Frankfurt, Vienna, Berlin, Darmstadt, Leningrad, and London (Courtauld Institute). In addition, the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently acquired a title design (formerly in the Mariette Collection) showing St. Paul dictating. The Metropolitan drawing was evidently never engraved. These title designs serve as datable guides to the evolution of his draughtsmanship. The Bowdoin drawing was done at the very end of his career and is more sculpturally finished than earlier designs, but his strong outlines and characteristic putti are evident. In an unpublished article written about 1956, Ludwig Burchard praised van Diepenbeeck's book designs for their spirit and variety, worthy of the best Italian illustrators.

David P. Becker (edited by Sarah Cantor)


Diels, Ann. The Shadow of Rubens: Print Publishing in 17th-century Antwerp. Prints by the history painters Abraham van Diepenbeeck, Cornelis Schut, and Erasmus Quellinus II. Translated by Irene Shaudies and Michael Hoyle. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2009.

Commentary credited to David P. Becker (or not otherwise captioned) appeared in his catalogue Old Master Drawings at Bowdoin College (Brunswick: Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 1985).