Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558-1617)
Eer boven golt [Honor Above Gold], 1609
Ink on paper 5 7/8 in. x 3 1/2 in. (14.9 cm x 8.9 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, E. B. Crocker Collection1871.143
One of the most skilled engravers in the history of the Netherlands, Hendrick Goltzius was born near Venlo and trained in the city of Cleves under Dirck Coornhert. When the latter opened a studio in Haarlem in 1577, the nineteen-year-old Goltzius accompanied him and settled there until his death forty years later, though he traveled to Italy in 1590–91. He collaborated with the Antwerp artist Philips Galle during his middle years and created a small number of paintings beginning in the 1590s. Goltzius’s technical skills and voracious intellect led him to become a leading proponent of humanist images in the Netherlands and a prolific Mannerist engraver.
Goltzius’s personal device, seen in this drawing, derives from a Dutch and Italian tradition in which humanists encoded moral truths in symbols that learned audiences could decode for intellectual delight and instruction. Here, a laurel-crowned, classical bust representing Honor flies above a snake-entwined caduceus of Mercury, the god of invention, its base rising from a pot of gold coins. The pun on Goltzius’s name reappears in the inscription “Eer boven Golt.” (Honor above Gold), which glorifies the artist’s pursuit of public esteem over riches and self-interest.