Francis van Bossuit

Brussels 1635–1692 Amsterdam
Bathsheba at her Bath and Lot and his Daughters
Ivory reliefs, both 16 x 19.5 cm
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1727

Francis van Bossuit

The first artist’s monograph in the history of art

In 1727, long before Raphael, Michelangelo or Bernini, Francis van Bossuit, who died in 1692 in Amsterdam, is honoured by the publication a monograph on his work that has preserved his name for posterity. Based on drawings of many of van Bossuit’s works made by Barend Graat (1628–1700), the sculptor’s son-in-law Mattijs Pool (1676–1740) creates copperplate engravings and publishes these under the title Cabinet de l’Art de Sculpture par le Fameux Sculpteur Francis van Bossuit. This novel type of publication is very successful as van Bossuit’s work is held in high esteem in the late 17th and early 18th centuries in the Netherlands.

17th century

Emperor Philip IV

The ‘King of the World’

When Francis van Bossuit is born in Brussels in 1635, Philip IV of Spain, called ‘The Great’ or ‘King of the World’, rules over the Burgundian Netherlands. He is considered the last Spanish sovereign to rule on the basis of Great Power politics. Philip IV himself dabbles in painting and poetry, promotes the arts and appoints Diego Velasquez – who paints frequent portraits of the monarch – as court painter.

White Gold

A material long used uncritically

Its rarity and long, dangerous transport routes makes ivory an extremely precious material; its value is considered to be on a par with gold. Until the late 18th century ivory is used to make religious and secular works of art of the highest quality. This situation only changes after the colonialisation of the African continent and India, as well as through advances in hunting techniques. At the end of the 19th century more than 800 tons of ivory reach Europe; the material is used excessively and the very existence of the elephant is under threat.