Esaias von Hulsen (Dutch, ca. 1570–before 1626)
Blackwork and engraving; sheet 5 1/2 x 7 5/16 in. (14 x 18.6 cm)
The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 2012 (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 the 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.