A Rare Suite of Fine Engravings of the Jesuit Generals By the Master Engraver Hieronymus Wierix

JESUITS. Wierix, Hieronymus (c. 1553–1619), artist

Effigies praepositorum generalium Societatis Iesu

Antwerp: n.p., after Jan. 1615, before 1620


Plate size: 12 x 7.2 cm. Sheet size: 18 x 12.5 cm. six plates.

A complete set of six engraved plates by the Flemish engraver Hieronymus Wierix. Modern half vellum. Fine, rich impressions of the plates. Broad margins. The first plate is an engraved title page with the text framed within an elaborate cartouche. The five portraits have captions identifying the subjects. All plates signed by Wierix at the foot: “Hieronymus Wierx [sic] fecit et excudit.”

The engravings were printed with a privilege from the assistant secretary to the Privy Council of the Archduke of the Netherlands. This privilege also appears in the plate: “Cum gratia et privilegio Piermans.” The plates are not dated but a date of after 1615 and before 1620 can be assumed. Acquaviva’s death (Jan. 1615) is recorded on his plate; Wierix died in 1619.

A complete set of these very rare engravings of the first five generals of the Jesuit Order: Ignatius of Loyola (general from 1541-1556), Diego (James) Laynez (1558-1565), St. Francis Borgia (1565-1572), Everard Mercurian (1573-1580), and Claudio Acquaviva (1581-31 January, 1615)

The master engraver Hieronymus Wierix was one of three sons of the painter Jan Wierix I. Both of Hieronymus’ brothers were also engravers. Hieronymus also engraved a series of scenes from the Life of Ignatius of Loyola. Such series were part of a program to promote the Jesuit push to have Ignatius canonized. By the time this series of engravings was published, the Order had achieved a crucial step in that process: the beatification of Ignatius (in 1609). That new distinction is reflected in the caption on the first plate, in which Ignatius’ name is preceded by a “B” for “beatus” (i.e. “blessed.”)

From the time of its establishment, the Society of Jesus spread rapidly, and at the time of St. Ignatius' death had twelve provinces: Italy, Sicily, Portugal, Aragon, Castile, Andalusia, Upper Germany, Lower Germany, France, India (including Japan), Brazil, and Ethiopia, the last-mentioned province lasting but a short time. By the time the fifth General (father Acquaviva) died the Society numbered 13,112 members in 32 provinces (including Canada, Chile, Paraguay, the Philippine Islands, and China) and 559 houses.

Maucquoy-Hendrickx 1750-1755: Hollstein 2014 (Wierix)