An Engraved “Life” of Ignatius of Loyola - With a plate showing Ignatius performing miracles.

IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, SAINT (1491-1556)]; Ribadeneira, Pedro de (1526-1611); Mesa, Juan de (active 1596-1614), artist

Vita beati patris Ignatii Loyolæ religionis Societatis Iesv fvndatoris / ad vivvm expressa ex ea qvam P. Petrvs Rebadeneyra [...] olim scripsit; deinde Madriti pingi, postea in æs incidi et nvnc demvm typis excvdi cvravit.

Paris: Jean le Clerc, Rue Sainct Jean de Latran, 1612


Album: 26.8 x 19 cm. (Plate size approx. 18.5 x 13.5 cm.) [16] leaves consisting of an engraved title page and fifteen engraved plates

Bound in modern marbled boards. A broad-margined set on thin paper, mild marginal soiling, light stain to map, a few short, discreetly repaired tears to margins (far from the images), trivial stains. Overall very well preserved and complete. Very rare.

An engraved suite of the life and miracles of Ignatius of Loyola, produced shortly after Ignatius’ beatification in 1609 and meant to advance his canonization. The plates depict scenes from the life of Ignatius as described in Pedro Ribadeneira’s Life of Loyola, with engraved captions describing the scenes. These are reduced copies of the Antwerp series produced in Theodoor Galle’s workshop in 1610. They reproduce the work of the artists Cornelis Galle (1576-1650) [title, plates 2, 5, 10]; Theodoor Galle (1571-1633) [plates 1 and 6]; Adriaan Collaert (1560-1618) [3,7,9,14]; Jean Collaert (1560-1618) [15]; and Karel van Mallery (1571-1635) [4,8,11,13]. Plate 12 is unattributed.

“In about 1600 Pedro de Ribadeneira, author of the most widespread early biographies  of Ignatius of Loyola, commissioned a series of sixteen large paintings illustrating the life of the founder of the Jesuit Order for the Jesuit house in Madrid. A few years later, as the campaign for beatification and canonization of Ignatius gained momentum, he had prints made after these paintings, which were published in Antwerp in 1610. Although the original paintings by Juan Mesa are lost… seven drawings for these prints have been identified in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg…

“Ignatius was beatified in 1609, then canonized in 1622, marking the culmination of a campaign that started in the 1580s, in which written and illustrated lives played a key role. Most important of the written biographies were those compiled by Pedro de Ribadeneira (Ribadeynera; 1527–1611), a Spanish Jesuit who had known Ignatius personally. His first short biography of the future saint appeared in 1567 and was followed by expanded versions in Latin, Spanish, Italian, French and Dutch. In 1601 he described a range of Ignatius’ miracles – a central requirement for beatification – in an addendum to his lives of the saints, the Flos Sanctorum. And from a life of de Ribadeneira himself, written the year after his death, we learn that in around 1600 he commissioned sixteen large paintings illustrating Ignatius’ life for the Jesuit house in Madrid. The artist was Juan de Mesa, whose name is not recorded in catalogues of private collections in Madrid and of whom little is known save that he worked extensively for the Society of Jesus between 1596 and his death in 1614.

“As Ribadeneira’s biography noted, he then commissioned engraved copies of Mesa’s paintings ‘from the best printmaking workshop in Flanders’. The result was the ‘Vita beati patris Ignatii Loyolae’, published in Antwerp in 1610, a year after the beatification of Ignatius and a year before the author’s death.”(Phillips, Between Madrid and Antwerp, The Life of Ignatius of Loyola, Antwerp 1610, in ‘In Monte Artium’, 11, (2018), p. 47, 49-50)

“The print series fully accords with the stated intention of Ribadeneira’s ‘Vita’, which is, as he avows in the prologue, to set Ignatius before the reader’s eyes… Like the textual ‘Vita’…. the engraved ‘Vita’ also reveals interior things about Ignatius, hidden aspects of him that Ribadeneira has likewise discerned. The pictorial life achieves this aim by bringing to light facets of his interior life, especially his powers of spiritual vision.”(Melion, “Varieties of the Spiritual Image in Theodoor Galle’s ‘Life of Blessed Father Ignatius of Loyola’ of 1610” in Religion and the Senses in Early Modern Europe, p. 74)

The engraved title page features a portrait of Ignatius. Plate 15 depicts nine scenes of miracles performed Ignatius of Loyola, with captions. Because many of the plates show multiple scenes (each identified by a capital letter), they illustrate 43 episodes from Ignatius’s life, plus the 9 miracle scenes. Plate 12 is the “Roma Ignaziana” map, a view of the city of Rome with the principal buildings of the Society of Jesus.

“The ‘Roma Ignaziana’ map shows the dramatic impact of the Society of Jesus on the Roman urban landscape during the Society’s first seventy years of existence. The engraving superimposes the principal Jesuit installations directly onto the 1575 plan of Braun, Novellanus, and Hogenberg, which itself derived from the 1555 plan of Ugo Pinard. The erroneous placement of some of the installations (e.g. S. Caterina dei Funari, the Roman Seminary, and the house of catechumens) suggests that the engraver was probably working in Antwerp from second-hand information. The title of the plan, ‘Domus ac pietatis opera quae B. P. Ignatius Romae facienda curavit, quaeq. Societas suae curae commisa habet’ is significant, for it gathers together under the rubric of works of mercy (pietatis opera) all of the works of the first generations of Jesuit labor in Rome. Education was seen as work of charity no less than work with reformed prostitutes, catechumens, or orphans.”(Lucas)

Collaert Dynasty, Vol. 17, pt. 4, p. 176; De Backer-Sommervogel VI, 1730-31; For the map of Rome see Lucas, “Saint, Site and Sacred Strategy: Ignatius, Rome and Jesuit Urbanism, No. 71