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Nine Religious Drawings by Nicolaes Berchem: Designs to Ornament Maps in a 1669 Bible
9. Nicolaes Berchem, Ornaments, signed "Berchem ft." Pen and brown ink, 11.8 x 53.5 cm. Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, inv. no. N. Berchem-2
Four other drawings by Berchem can be matched to prints on a fourth map, "Description Géographique des Voyages de S.[t] Paul et des autres Apostres avec celle des Païs & Royaumes où ils ont presché l'Evangile" ("Geographic Description of the Voyages of St Paul and the other Apostles with the countries and kingdoms where they preached the Gospel"; fig. 13). This map is signed at bottom right: "N. Berchem invent." and "I. de Visscher fecit". Along the top and bottom are several vignettes. Reading from the top left one finds portrayals of Pentecost (Acts 2:14), Peter and John Healing a Cripple at the Door of the Temple (Acts3:8), The Death of Ananias (Acts 5:5), and The Stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58). At the bottom, from left to right, are scenes of The Conversion of Paul (Acts 9:3-9), Elymas Struck Blind (Acts 13:11), Paul and Barnabas Healing the Cripple at Lystra (Acts 14:8-18), and Paul Shipwrecked on the Island of Malta (Acts 28:1-6). Berchem's drawings for all except one of these compositions (The Death of Ananias) are extant (figs. 6-9). It is interesting to note that he incorporated into one drawing the four scenes that embellish the bottom of the map, whereas he made four separate drawings for the vignettes at the top.
Because Berchem's drawings and the maps on which his designs appear are undated and without the name of a publisher, it is fortunate that the maps remain today within the Bible for which they were made. This Bible provides information on its title page and its three and a half-page "Avertissement des Imprimeurs" (Information from the Printers) that is pertinent not only for those interested in the maps, but also for the art historian interested in Berchem's drawings.
The title page of La Sainte Bible states that it includes the text of both the Old and New Testaments, newly corrected by the Reformed theologians Samuel and Henri des Marets.
Samuel des Marets (1599-1673), also known by the Latin name, Maresius, was a famous and respected theologian of the Reformed church. Born in France, he studied in Paris, in Saumur under Gomarus, and in Geneva. After ordination, Maresius preached at Laon until 1624, when he came into controversy with the Roman Catholic clergy and an attempt was made on his life. He became professor at Sedan (1625), pastor at Maastricht (1632), pastor and professor at 's Hertogenbosch (1636) and then moved to Groningen (1643), where he preached and taught theology and ecclesiastical history at the University. During these years he became known for his writings (over 100 works), including Systhema Theologiae (1645) that served for years as a textbook of theology. Fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, Des Marets worked also at Marburg, Lausanne and Utrecht, and was given a chair at Leiden University. He shared the editing of the new La Sainte Bible with his son, Henri, who was a theologian and pastor for the Walloon community at Delft from 1662.
The "Avertissement des Imprimeurs" that follows the title page relates that the Bible was published in French for use by the Walloon communities within the Dutch Republic. The scriptural text was based on the Flamand Bible, the first translation having been made at Geneva in 1535 by Pierre des Hayes. The marginal notes were taken in large part from the Diodat 1637 Bible that was authorized by the Synod of Dordrecht. As for the maps, all five were specially engraved for this Bible. Four were newly drawn from the best sources available and the fifth, a map of Jerusalem, was copied from an already published map that had been bound with a Polyglot Bible recently published in England.
A note on the back of the title page explains that the Des Marets received two privileges for the Bible, the first given on 16 March 1659 by the States-General of the United Provinces for 14 years, and the last in 1668 from the States of Holland and West-Friesland for 15 years. The privileges are stated to include rights to all parts of the Bible (probably referring to text, maps, tables, engraved title pages and frontispiece). The Des Marets were given the right to select the publisher. Before publication of the Bible in 1669, they transferred all privileges for this edition to Louys and Daniel Elzevier.
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