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Signorum Veterum Icones

RA Collection: Book

Record number



[Amsterdam?:: S. J. Baalde?,, 1668-1669]

Physical Description

2 parts in one [4 p., engr. t.-pl., pl. 1-50. - 4 p., pl. 51-100]; 319 mm.

General Note

In some copies the plates are not numbered, and there is a second title-page before the second dedication and set of 50 plates, reading 'Signorum Veterum Icones Semi-centuria altera'.


[Engr. t.-pl.; Dedic. in Latin and Dutch]; Semicenturiæ figurarum ... nomenclator [in Latin and Dutch]; [Pl. 1-50]. - [Dedic. in Latin and Dutch; Address to reader in Latin and Dutch]; [Pl. 51-100].

Responsibility Note

All plates and the engraved title-plate are signed as made by JE (Johannes Episcopius, i.e. Jan de Bisschop). Many are signed by draughtsmen also: P.P. Doncker, Doudyns, J. Matham, Ferreris, Neefs, Backer, Wieling, Poelenburch, And. del Sarto, D. Geijn, F. Salviati. One group (63-69) is signed as both drawn and engraved by Bisschop.

Bisschop's two dedications are to Constantyn Huygens and Johan Augustyn Wtenbogard.


P. Madhok, The drawing books of Henry Peacham and Jan de Bisschop and the place of drawing in the education of a Renaissance gentleman [thesis] (Ann Arbor MI, USA: UMI, 1997); J. G. van Gelder and I. Jost, Jan de Bisschop and his Icones and Paradigmata (2 v., 1985); J. Bolten, Method and practice: Dutch and Flemish drawing books 1600-1750 (1985), p.69-72; J. G. van Gelder, 'Jan de Bisschop 1628-1671' in Oud Holland 86 (1971), p.201-59.

Wider studies include E. Ranfft and A, Hughes, edd., Sculpture and its reproductions (1997); F. Haskell and N. Penny, Taste and the antique: the lure of classical sculpture 1500-1900 (1982).

Summary Note

No publication-date is given on the title page. But plate 59 carries the date 1669; and Van Gelder (1971) established that this work was published in two parts in 1668 and 1669.

By profession a lawyer, Bisschop was also a gifted amateur draughtsman and etcher, and founded a small academy, where Dutch artists might draw from the antique and from life. Here, as he states in his dedication, he is emulating Perrier's recent and much-applauded book of statues (1638, reprinted 1645, 1653); but unlike Perrier he includes statues from outside Rome (Florence, Amsterdam, London, Paris), and makes a brief statement of his purpose: no-one should be intent solely on the antique and blind to nature and the living, 'but since antiquity most judiciously selected whatever is excellent in nature herself (from so great a variety, where the beautiful is often mixed with the unadmirable), it is rightly regarded as the best guide'. This emphasis on selectivity in pursuit of an ideal was reiterated in Bisschop's other didactic work, the Paradigmata Graphices of 1671.


A microfilm of this work was made for the British Library (Neg. PB. Mic. 9398).


Recorded in RAA Library, Catalogue, 1802.

Copy Note

Imperfect; lacks pl. 79-82. The front endpaper has some page-references inscribed in ink in an unidentified hand.

Binding Note

17th-century sprinkled calf, blind-stamped border on upper and lower cover; rebacked in 20th century; black morocco spine-label lettered 'Bisschop's Statues'. Bound with Bisschop's Paradigmata Graphices [ca. 1671].


Sculpture, Greek - Sculpture, Roman - Statues - History
Pattern drawings - Netherlands - 17th century
Pictorial works - Netherlands - 17th century


Jan de Bisschop, draughtsman, engraver
Constantijn Huygens, dedicatee
Johannes Wtenbogaard, dedicatee
P. P. Doncker, draughtsman
Willem Doudijns, draughtsman
Jacob Matham, draughtsman
Dirck Ferreris, draughtsman
Jacobus Neeffs, draughtsman
Jacob Adriaensz Backer, draughtsman
Nicolaes Willing, draughtsman
Cornelis van Poelenburgh, draughtsman
Andrea del Sarto, draughtsman
Willem de Gheyn, draughtsman
Francesco Salviati, draughtsman