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Four Engravings Cut from Sudermann's Schöne ausserlesene Figuren und hohe Lehren

Whereas Daniel Sudermann’s 1622 emblem book Hohe geistreiche Lehren und Erklärungen was entirely devoted to a comprehensive interpretation of the Song of Songs, his 1620 book entitled Schöne ausserlesene Figuren und hohe Lehren von der Begnadeten Liebhabenden Seele (Exalted Selected Pictures and High Teachings of the Blessed Loving Soul) addresses selected elements of the Song of Solomon along with a variety of other Christian texts and German verses. Each sheet in this collection is self-contained. Their page numbers are handwritten and irregular (not printed consecutively as in the 1622 publication). The caption titles Sudermann provides for each engraving are less standardized and less elaborate, sometimes featuring an actual inscription in the form of a text, sometimes a more generic, thematic caption title. His verse commentaries, in the subscription immediately under each engraving, are much shorter in this volume, rarely continuing over onto the verso of the sheet. This volume was published by Jacob van der Heyden in Strasbourg c. 1620; many of its engravings are by van der Heyden himself, others by Hans Erhard Wagner.

All four engravings collected by Melville are by Wagner (whose initials “HEW” accompany the same images when reprinted in Sudermann’s Thirty engraved leaves with poems; see microfilm source below). Because Sudermann’s commentary does not extend onto the other side of any of the leaves from which these images have been cut, the verso of each of Melville’s engravings is blank (apart from the seemingly random pencil lines he or someone else has drawn on the back of three of them). Three of these four engravings do relate closely to the Song of Solomon engravings by van der Heyden. Wagner’s images are similar in style but visually distinct. His Solomonic engravings are less anchored in the historical reality of the Song, more directly centered in the purely “allegoric” vision whose “burden” is decidedly “mystical” (to again to borrow Melville’s words from “The Prodigal” in Clarel). Wagner's three engravings betray no evidence of a secular world or of a king who could be called Solomon; the mutual love in this case is between the female beloved and Christ Himself. In these more mystical engravings the female beloved does nevertheless resemble her van der Heyden counterpart in hair, gesture, vesture, and crown (compare, for example, the female figure in CAT 61 with those in CAT 53, 54, and 55).  

Although this 1620 publication is not primarily devoted to the Song of Solomon, that Biblical text is an important enough subject to merit its own phrase in the long subtitle of the volume: “zum theyl auß dem hohen Lied Salomonis.” One of the images signed with van der Heyden’s monogram in this volume depicts a footwashing scene nearly identical in format to that depicted in CAT 50, except that in this case the beloved’s leg is crossed in the other direction (see figure 1 below). Another image signed by van der Heyden depicts the queen carrying a huge cross up toward heaven in a way that also anticipates another image in the 1622 emblem book (CAT 55). Given the comprehensivenes with which Sudermann and van der Heyden addressed the Song of Solomon in their 1622 collaboration, it would appear that were inspired to embark upon that project by their collaboration with Wagner on the images in 1620 volume.

sudermann 1620 p15 cropped.jpg

Figure 1. Van der Heyden’s depiction of the foot-washing scene in Sudermann’s 1620 emblem book.

Given that there are many fewer images of the Song of Solomon in this publication, the three that Melville acquired give an impressively coherent picture of Song in its allegorial and mystical dimension. Wagner’s images read almost like an an intensification and condensation of the ones by van der Heyden in Melville’s collection. Melville’s fourth image from this publication, though not directly related to the Song of Songs in Sudermann’s commentary, does bear some relation to the interior domestic scene depicted by van der Heyden in CAT 50. The page numbers in the Print Identification for CAT 60-63 correspond to the position of each image in the HaithiTrust facsimile edition. I am grateful to Richard Erich Schade and Nancy Jentsch for help in translating Sudermann’s texts.

  • Works Cited in this section
  • Ginsburg, Christian D. [C. D. C.]. “Solomon’s Song.” Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature. Originally edited by John Kitto. Third ed., edited by William Lindsay Alexander. Philadelphia: J. B. Lipponcott, 1866.
  • Pope, Martin. Song of Solomon: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible. New York: Doubleday, 1977.
  • Sudermann, Daniel. Schöne ausserlesene Figuren und hohe Lehren von der Begnadeten Liebhabenden Seele, nemlich der Christlichen Kirchen und ihre Gemahl Jesu Christo. Zum theyl auß dem hohen Lied Salomonis, wie auch auß der alten Christlichen Kirchenlehrern Schrifften gezogen. Strasbourg: van der Heyden, c. 1620;
  • --------.  Thirty engraved leaves with poems signed by engraver “HEW.” Microfilm. New Haven: Research              Publications, 1967. Yale University Library collection of German baroque literature, reel 24, no. 206.
Four Engravings Cut from Sudermann's Schöne ausserlesene Figuren und hohe Lehren