Skip to main content

Allegory for Abraham Ortelius

This superb little drawing on parchment was done by Joris Hoefnagel in 1593 to commemorate his friendship with the cartographer and geographer Abraham Ortelius, as the inscriptions below inform us.

From the Print Cabinet's collection

Joris Hoefnagel (Antwerp, 1542 – Vienna, 1600) was successively court painter to Duke Albert V in Munich and to Emperor Rudolf II in Prague.

Owl and serpents

This drawing is an allegorical representation of the union of the arts and sciences. The owl is a symbol of Athena, goddess of wisdom, and the staff that she holds – a brush with two serpents round it – symbolises Hermes, god of the fine arts.

Prized object

The insects and painting gear are depicted with great precision. Hoefnagel’s use of shadows makes the insects and implements appear to be lying on the surface of the parchment. Such a meticulous gem was a sought-after object for the decoration of bourgeois and palatial interiors and for the art cabinets of prominent collectors. Drawings like this were pasted on wood, framed and hung on the wall.

Museum Plantin-Moretus

Unesco werelderfgoed

Slogan icons

Subscribe to our newsletter