A Complete Set of The Triumph of the Martyrs (1591)

Passe I, Crispijn van de (1564-1637); Vos, Maarten de (1532-1603)

Trivmphvs Martyrvm

Munich[?]: Aegidius Sadeler the Elder and Johann I Sadeler, 1591


28 x 17.8 cm. 13 leaves of plates (image dimensions: title: 22.3 x 14.7. scenes: avg. 19 x 14 cm.)


A complete suite of 13 unnumbered engravings (including the title page), engraved by Crispijn de Passe after drawings by Maarten de Vos, and printed by Aegidius and Johann Sadeler, probably at Munich. Bound in modern calf, gilt.

This is the only work printed by the Sadelers for De Passe. Both De Passe and the brothers Sadeler had left Antwerp in 1588, each establishing thriving printing enterprises, in Cologne and Munich, respectively. After 1588 De Passe printed almost all of his own works in his Cologne shop. This work, after drawings by Maarten de Vos, who provided drawings for almost all of De Passe’s prints and also knew the Sadelers from his Antwerp days, is an interesting exception. It is also rare. I have located only two complete copies in the United States (NYPL, Chicago).

The engraved title is signed: “Martin de Vos figuravit. Crispin vande Passe sculpsit. 1591” and “Sadler [sic] excudit”. The plates are signed with various abbreviated forms of “Sadeler excudit, Martin de Vos figuravit, Crispin de Passe scalpsit.”

The engraved title page depicts John the Baptist and St. Paul flanking an altar where an open book with seven seals and the "Lamb who was slain" [Bk. of Revelation] lie. Banderols over the heads of John and Paul with quotations from John 1 and Romans 4, respectively. The altar is inscribed with a passage from Philippians 3. Behind the altar are ranged instruments of Christ's passion, as well as saints' articles of penitence and martyrdom. There is also a six-line dedication to Maximilian, Archduke of Austria, along with his arms.

The subjects of the twelve engraved scenes are: 1. Cain Slaying Abel, 2. The people threatening to stone Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb, 3. Saul orders the death of Ahimelech, 4. Queen Jezebel ordering to kill the prophets, 5. The prophet Isaiah sawn in two, 6. The stoning of the prophet Jeremiah, 7. The prophet Urijah killed by Jehoiakim, 8. The killing of the prophet Ezekiel, 9. Daniel in the lion’s den, 10. Eleazar burned by Antiochus, 11. The seven Maccabean brothers killed by Antiochus, 12. The drowning of the children of the Hebrews.

Born at Arnemuiden on the island of Walcheren in Zeeland in 1564, Crispijn de Passe moved to Antwerp, where he was entered in the rolls of the Antwerp Guild of St Luke in 1585, at the age of twenty. A devout Mennonite, De Passe chose to leave Antwerp in 1588 rather than convert to Catholicism. After a brief but productive sojourn at Aachen in 1588-9, De Passe settled with his family at Cologne, where he opened a successful printing and publishing business.

Maarten de Vos, Crispijn de Passe, and the Sadelers:

“The most prolific print designer in Antwerp was Maarten de Vos, who was entered into the rolls of the Antwerp Guild of St Luke in 1558 and became one of the wealthiest painters in the city. His drawings were the basis for numerous prints issued by different publishers from the early 1570s onwards. The collaboration between De Vos and De Passe was extremely close from the very outset. Almost all of the latter’s Antwerp prints are after De Vos, who remained one of De Passe’s principal suppliers of drawings even after he had emigrated to Cologne… The close relationships between the two artists is explained, again on Van Buchell’s authority, by the fact that De Passe had married a niece of De Vos’s in Antwerp…

“It was probably through De Vos that De Passe met the engravers Raphael and Johannes Sadeler I, who had close links with Reformist circles. After leaving for Cologne around 1579, the Sadeler brothers had returned to Antwerp, where they lived from 1582 to 1586, mainly engraving and publishing works after Maarten de Vos. De Vos remained in touch with them during his Cologne period, for when they settled in Munich in 1588, Johannes Sadeler published De Passe’s ‘Triumphus martyrum” of 1591, one of the rare occasions when De Passe delivered work to an outside publisher.”(I.M. Veldman, “Crispijn de Passe and his Progeny (1564-1670): A Century of print production”)