Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums
With over 5 million works of art, artefacts and specimens within our collections, how exactly do you go about choosing a favourite? This was the challenge faced by staff and volunteers across the museums and Botanic Garden when they were invited to provide a personal response to their favourite specimens or objects. The result is My Museum Favourite, a guide which puts together a capsule collection of preferred picks (a bit like a personal tour guide for your pocket).
From revealing the painstaking conservation behind a 15th century illuminated French manuscript to describing the charms of a chubby baby in plaster cast form, the individual accounts offer unique insights and perspectives on an amazing range of items. Each week we will be highlighting a different ‘favourite’ for your delectation and delight.
To find a full list of favourites and their locations download your own guide here.
Hendrik Goudt, The Flight into Egypt, 1613
Elenor Ling, Paintings, Drawings and Prints
The Fitzwilliam Museum
I’m not good at this kind of question, since I always have quite a lot of favourites, but this engraving by Hendrik Goudt after Adam Elsheimer is a sure-fire contender. Goudt engraved only 7 prints, all of them after the short-lived German artist, Adam Elsheimer, who himself only painted a handful of works (we are fortunate enough to have two of them here – on display in this gallery).
I love to marvel at the staggering degree of skill that went into producing this print.
Not being a printmaker myself I’ve acquired knowledge of printmaking processes through second-hand means, sometimes just from reading definitions in books, which are often very brief. For instance, engraving is commonly described as the technique whereby a printmaker makes lines in the surface of a metal plate with a tool with V-shaped point (a burin). The deeper he or she pushes the tool, the wider the line. What books don’t explain – and why I love to stare closely at the surface of this print – is quite how it was possible for Goudt to engrave the lines so closely together that they still hold the ink and print this vibrant, enveloping black. In rich impressions like this you can barely make out the individual lines at all. I would have loved to have watched Goudt work (though I doubt he would have let me – he styled himself a Count so probably wouldn’t have wanted to share his secrets with anyone of less than noble birth. In the last line of the beautiful calligraphic inscription he signs himself ‘Count Palatine’ and ‘Golden knight’).
Goudt’s prints are fantastic in comparison with ones by Rembrandt, who produced his own dark-manner etchings. He was particularly inspired by Goudt’s play on physical and symbolic light and dark – the idea of Jesus Christ, ‘light of the world’, disappearing into inky blackness, as the Holy Family fled Bethlehem to escape King Herod’s massacre. There are a couple of examples of prints by Rembrandt in the adjacent case.