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Iconotheca Valvasoriana

Saint Mary from Kostanjevica (1660), Johann Jacob Schollennerger, I.283.

The University Library's North Front corridor hosted an exhibition of material from the Iconotheca Valvasoriana from December 2012 to early February 2013. We are delighted to be able to introduce a virtual exhibition of the same material. Please find below the text of the exhibition captions (altered where necessary) with links to images of each exhibit. Links are shown in bold blue text. All images are copyright of Fundacija Janez Vajkard Valvasor pri Slovenski akademiji znanosti in umetnosti in Ljubljana and the Zagrebška nadškofija, Biblioteka Metropolitana in Zagreb.


Johann Weichard Freiherr von Valvasor (1641-1693) was a nobleman from Carniola, an area in the Holy Roman Empire which roughly corresponds to modern Slovenia. A prodigious scholar and publisher, Valvasor set up a printing workshop in the grounds of his castle, where engravers and printers produced many of his own works, including his most famous, the four-volume Die Ehre des Hertzogthums Crain (The glory of the Duchy of Carniola) in 1689.

Valvasor was also a great collector. As a young man, he travelled for many years around Western and Southern Europe, and during his travels he collected thousands of prints and drawings. He put this collection together in 18 vast volumes in 1685. Bankrupted by the production costs of his 1689 magnum opus, Valvasor was forced to sell his home and library. The latter, with his print collection, was bought by the Bishop of Zagreb. Bar the loss of volume 4 at some point probably in the 18th century, the set has remained intact ever since.

From 2000, the Slovenian Academy of Arts and Sciences worked in conjunction with the Metropolitan Library of Zagreb to produce the extraordinary facsimile on display in this exhibition. The extant 17 volumes have been painstakingly reproduced, with critical parallel commentaries in Slovene, Croatian, and English added alongside. The result, the Iconotheca Valvasoriana set, is a priceless resource, providing readers with access to thousands of 16th- and 17th-century prints and drawings.

The facsimile was produced in a very limited run. Through the kind generosity of Mrs Petra and Mr Darko Horvat, the University Library is one of the very fortunate recipients of a copy. Each volume has been catalogued separately, to allow emphasis on each one's particular specialities, but a search for Iconotheca Valvasoriana on the catalogue will result in all the records being displayed.

This exhibition, which displays 16 of the 17 volumes, aims to give readers and visitors to the website some idea of the scope and richness of this extraordinary facsimile.


This portrait of Valvasor, showing him probably in his late forties, depicts him surrounded by symbols of his life and work. The main emphasis is given to scholarship, but his military experience (he took part in the Austrian-Turkish War) is also shown, by the quiver and arrows to the left. The text encircling Valvasor includes mention of the fact that he was 'ein Mitglied der Königlichen Societat in Engelland' - a member of the Royal Society in England.

[Please note that the style of referring to the specific Iconotheca Valvasoriana volume shown above is used throughout this exhibition. The Roman numeral relates to the number of the volume within the set; the Arabic to the number of the picture within the volume. All 17 volumes of the Iconotheca are placed together within the Rare Books collection, starting at classmark]

P. v. Radicz
Valvasor : biographische Skizze

Graz : Leuschner & Lubensky, 1866

Peter von Radicz, the author of this book about Valvasor, was, like his subject, born in Carniola. The portrait linked to here, signed by a Rothaug, shows Valvasor as a younger man than in the portrait to the left. The book starts with Valvasors motto, "Als der ich nichts für gewiss auzugeben gewohnt, was ich selbst nicht gesehen und erfahren" (I state only for certain what I have seen and experienced myself).

Biblical scenes

I.249 Jonah cast into the sea

This image of Jonah being thrown into the sea by the fearful mariners (note the whale eagerly awaiting him) was executed by the Flemish engraver Dominicus Custos (1560-1612), and is the first in a set of three plates based on Jonah's life. The editorial apparatus to the left informs us that Custos worked from a print by Johannes (Jan) Sadeler I, a younger Flemish engraver, which was based in turn on the drawing or painting of the original image by Dirk Barentsen (Dirck Barendsz), the Dutch Renaissance artist.

II.293 The resurrection

The identity of the engraver of this scene is unknown, but the critical apparatus suggests that the inventor of the image (ie the creator of the original painting or drawing) was Rubens. The print shows the rising of Christ from the tomb, with the fainting guards to the left and the women, the first witnesses among Christ's followers to his resurrection, approaching from top left. The three components of the scene are labelled in the print itself as LL, MM, and NN, with parallel Latin and German captions for each below.

Scenes from classical mythology

X.96 Jupiter turns Lycaon into a wolf

Invented by the Dutch artist and printmaker Hendrik Goltzius and produced by his workshop, this image is one of a large series of prints which illustrate Ovid's Metamorphoses. This print shows the start of Jupiter's revenge on the devious Lycaon, turning him into a wolf as punishment for the ghastly deed of serving the god human flesh to test his divinity.

XV.202 from 'The deeds of Hercules'
[each of the four miniatures is linked to separately in the text below]

Hans Sebald Beham (1500-1550) was a leading member in the Kleinmeister (Little Masters) group of German engravers who produced miniature prints. Here are shown four examples of his work, from his Hercules series. From the top left: a. Hercules killing a centaur (1542), b. Hercules killing the Hydra, c. Hercules carrying the columns of Gaza, and d. Hercules killing Cacus (all 1545).

XI.213 Battle of the Lapiths & Centaurs

The Lapiths are primarily known for the story shown here, in Pierre Brébiette's 1625 work. The Lapith king's wedding was disrupted by unruly behaviour by a Centaur, leading to a battle. The print on display shows the popular tradition of portraying the Centaurs as savages and the Lapiths as civilised people (the Lapiths won).


XVI.213 The siege of a fortress

The work of Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) features heavily in the Iconotheca, most commonly depicting religious scenes. This print is one of the exceptions. It is in fact the right-hand half of two-piece print; the left-hand side is on the previous leaf in the volume and can be seen by clicking here. Against a scene of marching forces and burning buildings, the foreground includes a plate showing Dürer's monogram signature, AD, and the date, 1527.

XIV.183 The battle of Rocroy

This topographical but also carefully decorated piece (the top half of a pair; the lower half follows in the volume and can be seen by clicking here, and a more detailed close-up here) is over 100 years older than Dürer's print and relates to the terrible Thirty Years' War. The battle of Rocroy (or Rocroi) in 1643 saw the Spanish army defeated by the French, led by Louis de Bourbon, Duc d'Enghien (d'Angvien here); a close-up of his portrait in the picture is shown here. The engraver is François Collignon, the inventor Stefano della Bella.


VI.177 Amphitheatre

This print was produced by the German engraver Matthäus Küsel in 1667 based on a drawing by Lodovico Burnacini. Burnacini was the set designer for Antonio Cesti's epic opera Il Pomo d'oro's similarly epic 1668 premiere. The print linked to is one in a large series of stage designs that he and Käsel produced for it; the others are also contained in the volume.

VIII.128 Te deum in the cathedral of Notre Dame

This is one of a large series of prints made by Jean Marot in 1665 to mark the triumphal entrance of Louis XIV and his wife into Paris on 26 August 1660. Marot was both an engraver and an architect, and is best known for two works which together provided over 200 detailed views of mainly Parisian buildings. Marot's dual professions explain the care and detail evident in the print.


XIII.84 Four friezes

This highly decorative print was engraved by Susanna Maria Sandrart in 1675, when she would have been 16 or 17 years old. This is part of a series she executed called 'Various ornamental designs for friezes and frames in Roman manner' which consists of reverse copies of etchings by Jean Lepautre. Lepautre (or le Pautre), 1618-1682, was famed for his designs for interior and exterior decoration.

XVII.465 Dedication

Volume 17 of the Iconotheca consists only of drawings and paintings. It is full of variety, with works by unknown amateurs alongside those of renowned artists. The authorship of the flower-shaped dedication (the reading of which is ordered by letter, with A to start in the lower right) shown here is not known, nor is its precise purpose. Its subject, however, is known: Wolff Sigmund Strobel von Strobelhoff was an administrator in Carniola.


IX.232 Eagle and partridge

Studies of flora and fauna are often among the relatively small number of coloured pictures that the Iconotheca contains. The large amount of editorial text on the page facing this example discusses the origins of this print and others in its series. The print was probably executed in the 17th century by Gerhard Altzenbach or Alzenbach but is based on a 16th-century engraving by Adriaen Collaert.

V.137 America

This is from the series 'The four continents', produced in the mid-17th century probably by Gregorius Fentzel after Julius Goltzius - the original drawings were by Maarten de Vos. The image of America shows an almost mythological place. The exotic scene features outlandish practices and extraordinary creatures. The beast at the front is a recognisable impression of an armadillo, while the chariot is pulled by unicorns.

XVIII.161 Asio otus

The 18th volume of the Iconotheca Valvasoriana consists largely of watercolours of flora and fauna from the area of modern-day Slovenia. These works are anonymous but are generally taken to have been produced by a workshop under Valvasor's stewardship or by Valvasor himself. The bird shown here is the scops owl.


VII.106 Ljubljana

This map of Laijbach (now Ljubljana, the capital city of modern-day Slovenia) was commissioned by Valvasor himself. It was produced by Andreas Trost, a German engraver who specialised in prints of maps and castles. By 1681, the date of this print, Trost had moved to the workshop which Valvasor had founded at his residence in Bogenšperk (Wagensperg in German) Castle. The map is complemented by a plethora of added detail. The three boxes above the scene show a close-up of the Rathaus and the town from two different angles (here and here), while the list to the top left names 21 specific sites numbered in the map.