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Past Exhibitions

Netherlandish Allegorical Prints

Tuesday 7 October 2014 – Monday 12 January 2015
9:30 am – 5:30 pm
Fridays and Saturday 1 - Sunday 2 November 9:30 am - 8:00 pm (Admission ends 30 mins. before closing time)
Mondays except 13 October, 3 November and 24 November and 12 January.
Closed on 14 October, 4 November, 25 November.
28 December to 1 January.
Prints and Drawings Gallery, NMWA
Organized by:
The National Museum of Western Art
Admission Fees:
Adults 430 yen (220 yen), College students 130 yen (70 yen)
Numbers in parentheses indicate discount fees for groups of 20 or more.
Admission is free for Special Exhibition or Permanent Collection ticket holders.
Visitors aged 18 and under or 65 and older are admitted free of charge. Please show your ID upon entrance to confirm your age.
Disabled visitors admitted free of charge, with one attendant. Please present your disability identification upon arrival.
《Mercury Presiding over the Arts from the series of Seven Planetary Gods 》

Jan Saenredam after Hendrik Goltzius
Mercury Presiding over the Arts from the series of Seven Planetary Gods
1596 engraving

Allegory refers to the technique of combining and presenting motifs or personification of concepts that hold symbolic meaning in order to impart a message to the viewer, akin to solving a mystery. This exhibition presents a selection of allegorical prints created from the end of the 16th century through the beginning of the 17th century by the so-called Northern Mannerists such as Hendrik Goltzius and Jan Saenredam.

The Netherlands was one of the major European printmaking regions in the 16th to 17th centuries, and many of the massive number of prints produced at the time were allegorical in nature. Among those allegorical prints, it seems that images depicting the seven planets that were thought to circle the earth and influence human affairs, the four seasons, the four elements of fire, earth, air and water, the five human senses, and virtues and vices were particularly popular print themes. From such prints we can gain an understanding of the worldviews and moral codes of the people of that period. Subjects such as the four seasons or the seven planets were expressed through images of the labors performed in each season of the year or the actions of people under the influence of a particular planet, and thus provided a good excuse for the genre scene depiction that was then growing in popularity. It also gave artists a chance to experiment with new forms of expression. Thus these types of prints were created in great numbers amidst this mix of interest in the genre from both producers and consumers.

In addition to the standard themes mentioned above, this exhibition also introduces works that take up such rare themes as, “allegories about the evils of worldly assets.” We hope that visitors to the exhibition will enjoy the various ingenious ways that artists expressed their subjects, and from these works, sense the thoughts and interests of the people of the time.

《Beardless Youth Standing to Right of Devil at an Easel from the series of Allegory of the Misusu of Worldly Property》

Willem Van Swanenburgh after Maerten van Heemskerck
Beardless Youth Standing to Right of Devil at an Easel from the series of Allegory of the Misusu of Worldly Property
1609 engraving

《Terra from the series of Four Elements》

Jacques de Gheyn II after Karel van Mander
Terra from the series of Four Elements
ca. 1595-97 engraving

Exhibition checklist (PDF File, about 37KB)


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