Ornament Print with Schweifwerk and Two (Allegorical?) Figures

Artist: Esaias von Hulsen (Dutch, Middelburg ca. 1570–before 1626 Stuttgart)

Date: ca. 1615–20

Medium: Blackwork engraving

Dimensions: Sheet: 5 1/2 x 7 5/16 in. (14 x 18.6 cm)

Classifications: Prints, Ornament & Architecture

Credit Line: The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 2012

Accession Number: 2012.55


This rare, intricate print shows Esaias von Hulsen at his best. Von Hulsen was active as a goldsmith in Stuttgart, but we mainly know him through his ornament prints, which he began producing in the early seventeenth century. Curiously, he seemed to work almost exclusively in the blackwork technique, although he used engraved lines for certain details. In this horizontally oriented panel, he presents a complicated asymmetrical pattern of so-called Schweifwerk in white on a dark ground. Within the maze of lines, he introduced a male and female figure, both in courtly costumes, which seem somewhat archaic. Two birds, a cornucopia, and pieces of fruit have also been interspersed between the Schweifwerk pattern. Whether this design is purely decorative or whether it has an allegorical meaning, for example, is unclear.