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David Teniers's Theatrum Pictorium and the John G. Johnson Collection

June 12, 2010 - January 2011

In 1660, the Antwerp artist and court painter David Teniers II (1610–1690) published the Theatrum Pictorium, the first illustrated printed catalogue of a major paintings collection. This opulent book contained etchings that reproduced 243 paintings in the collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, the governor of the Southern Netherlands. The selection of paintings highlighted the archduke's sixteenth-century Venetian masterpieces, largely acquired from the estate of the Duke of Hamilton, who had perished in the English Civil Wars (1642–51).

The Theatrum Pictorium ("Theater of Painting") was published in four languages (Latin, French, Dutch, and Spanish) and in five editions (the last was in 1755). This installation presents a Dutch-language copy from 1660, still encased in its original binding. It is shown alongside oil sketches by David Teniers that served as models for the prints included in the book. (Normally an artist provided a printmaker with a drawing rather than a painting.) His small, full-color copies survive in collections throughout the world, and John G. Johnson acquired five of them, on display here. As was conventional at that time, most of the images in the book are reverse images of the originals—standard methods for correcting the reversal had not yet been invented and doing so could only be achieved at a significant additional expense.

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Lloyd DeWitt, Associate Curator of the John G. Johnson Collection

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