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“I rose up to open to my beloved” (Song of Solomon 5:5)

CAT 52 Van der Heyden. Song of Solomon 5.5 from Suderman, 1622. BA 74.jpg

CAT 51. Jacob van der Heyden. “I rose up to open to my beloved” (Song of Solomon 5:5) in Daniel Sudermann, Hohe geistreiche Lehren und Erklärungen: uber . . .  desz Hohen Lieds Salomonis. Frankfurt: Eberhardt Kieser, 1622, p. 42. Melville Memorial Room, Berkshire Athenaeum.

This action scene follows quickly after the foot-washing scene in the Song of Songs as well as in Sudermann’s book of emblems. Immediately after the female beloved washes her feet in the Song, “My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him” (5:4). Then we come to the words that van der Heyden illustrates in this engraving: “I rose up to open to my beloved” (5:5). Verse 5 concludes with these sensuous words: “And my hands dripped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.”

In van der Heyden’s engaving, the left foot being dried off in the previous engraving is now about to slip into the slipper. The handles on the lock of the door are awaiting the touch of the female beloved as she opens it to he she loves. The canopied bed and the lock on the door create a sense of enclosure and expectation, yet also with a sense of purity and decorum (the light from the windows and on the forehead, the cleanliness of the table, the multi-layered clothing). 

As the woman moves her foot toward the slipper, her long tresses fall over her shoulder on the right as they did in the foot-washing scene. Her high expectations will be denied in the next verse: “I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake; I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer” (5:6). 

The German-language fragment on the verso of Melville’s engraving is part of Sudermann’s commentary on one phrase of verse 6: “Da gieng meine Seele herauß.” In it, the soul moves from the world of this earthly house into the “Herzen Christ” (Heart of Christ). That same phrase will become the primary subject of Sudermann’s next “lesson” in the series (p. 43 / W 090). Where the soul goes in Sudermann’s interpretation is straight to heaven, an idea van der Heyden expresses elsewhere in this book in the form of an unclad, ethereal female body ascending through the space that separates her fleshly body on the side of a hill from the heavenly destination, symbolized by the letters “IHS,” of her soul.