Israhel van Meckenem produced more than 500 engravings during his lifetime. Many of those were close copies or adaptations of existing works. The artist and publisher was among the first creators to use his name as a trademark. The Chazen Museum of Art
at the University of WisconsinMadison presents new research about the German printmakers groundbreaking practice and explores his role in developing printmaking as a fine art in Art of Enterprise: Israhel van Meckenems 15th-Century Print Workshop." The exhibition of more than 60 objects presents Israhel Van Meckenems engravings with several images he copied from Master ES, Martin Schongauer, Albrecht Dürer and his other contemporaries.
Israhel van Meckenem was one of the most prolific and influential printmakers of the 15th century, and his work offers a broad look at the visual and material culture of his time, said exhibition curator James Wehn, the Chazens Van Vleck curator of works on paper. Art of Enterprise examines the society in which the artist lived, presents the different types of engravings he published and explores his editorial practice and how he used his name and identity to develop a brand for his work in the marketplace.
The Chazens exhibition pairs several of Israhel van Meckenems works with the originals by other artists, offering the opportunity for close looking to encourage visitors to find the often-subtle differences in the works. The show includes Israhel van Meckenems self-portrait with his wife, Ida who was active in the printmaking enterprise. The elaborate background and the fur trim on Idas robe reflect the couples status. Produced between 1495 and 1500, the work is the earliest known printed self-portrait and among the artists most famous works.
Other engravings on view introduce visitors to late-Medieval and early-Renaissance life with depictions of proverbs, folk wisdom, contemporary home interiors, everyday life and religious scenes. Engravings Saint Peter and Saint John were unknown to print historians until recently and are new to the Chazens permanent collection. Israhel van Meckenem used Master ESs depiction of Saint Matthew to create Saint Judas Thaddaeus.
He doubled the figures size, changed the shape of the beard and exchanged Matthews halberd for a long saw. The hand-applied colors, added by another artist, suggest the prints use as an alternative to a miniature manuscript painting, said Wehn.
As Israhel van Meckenem developed his editorial copying practice, copper plates served as valuable assets that he reworked and reprinted for profit. Visitors will see the copper plate Israhel engraved for his copy of Albrecht Dürers Four Nude Women alongside an impression from the plate. Also on view will be an early impression of The Flagellation from Israhels Passion series, highlighted with gold and bound into a prayerbook. The exhibition also includes Ornament with the Engravers Name, a showpiece spelling ISRAHEL M in a mesmerizing display of leaves.
Israhel van Meckenem ventured into copy culture before there were copyright laws to prohibit his practice. Even so, the kinds of copies Israhel printed prompted some of the earliest questions about authorship and the value of intellectual property, said Wehn.
Art of Enterprise: Israhel van Meckenems 15th-Century Print Workshop is organized by the Chazen Museum of Art. The exhibition includes approximately 10 works from the Chazens collection and loans from nine other institutions, including The Albertina Museum (Vienna, Austria); The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York); the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.).
Generous support for Art of Enterprise: Israhel van Meckenems 15th-Century Print Workshop comes from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. The Kress Foundation devotes its resources to advancing the study, preservation and enjoyment of European art, architecture and archaeology from antiquity to the early 19th century.
Chazen Museum of Art
Art of Enterprise: Israhel van Meckenems 15th-Century Print Workshop
December 18th, 2023 - March 24th, 2024