The First Day (Dies I): The Separation of Darkness and Light, plate 1 from The Creation of the World, a series of seven plates

Jan Muller Netherlandish
After Hendrick Goltzius Netherlandish
Publisher Hendrick Goltzius Netherlandish

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In 1589 Jan Muller, son of the Amsterdam book printer, engraver, and publisher, was a member of or working in Hendrick Goltzius’s workshop in Haarlem. During that time, he engraved a series of prints depicting the creation of the world after designs by Goltzius, the premier draftsman and printmaker in the northern Netherlands. Although some preliminary sketches for the series still exist, the finished designs are now lost.

The series itself is extraordinary. Rather than following the centuries old traditional representations of the seven days of creation, based on the Book of Genesis, Goltzius looked instead to classical mythology for his imagery. It is often suggested that he was inspired by Ovid, the first century Latin poet, who describes the creation at the beginning of The Metamorphoses, his long poem about the gods and humankind.

A genius (a mythological figure similar in appearance to an angel) floats above composition, using two staffs to physically separate darkness from light. The personification of Light is a nude young man in a brilliant aureole. In his pose and general characteristics, he resembles the figure of Apollo in Goltzius’s engraving of 1588 (51.501.3), though he is less elegant and lacks the god’s specific attributes. Darkness is a Black nude woman holding aloft a drapery embellished with stars. Apart from a missing headdress she resembles the figure of Nox in a chiaroscuro woodcut by Goltzius of about 1588-90.

The First Day (Dies I):  The Separation of Darkness and Light, plate 1 from The Creation of the World, a series of seven plates, Jan Muller (Netherlandish, Amsterdam 1571–1628 Amsterdam), Engraving; New Holl.'s second state of two

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