A collection of early modern and modern prints that demonstrates the range of techniques and print media

13 Items in this Learning Collection
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object

All Rights Reserved ()

The Circumcision (Life of the Virgin Series)

Accession Number

The Circumcision (Life of the Virgin Series)

Hendrick Goltzius

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
engraving on ivory laid paper

19 ⅛ in x 14 1/16 in (48.58 cm x 35.72 cm);28 1/16 in x 22 1/16 in (71.28 cm x 56.04 cm);19 7/16 in x 14 3/10 in (49.37 cm x 36.35 cm);18 ⅜ in x 13 4/5 in (46.67 cm x 35.08 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
March 28, 2009
Hendrick Goltzius, one of the most virtuosic engravers in European history, famously led print connoisseurs to believe that a smoke-darkened copy of this print was the work of Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528). Some of the connoisseurs unwittingly praised the artificially aged print as proof of the superiority of earlier masters, which they claimed—ironically—even Goltzius could never match. Through this practical joke, Goltzius sought to demonstrate his command of the medium by imitating the styles of previous masters, thereby augmenting his own fame. This work comes from a series of six large engravings of scenes from the Life of the Virgin that Goltzius produced between 1593 and 1594. In each engraving, Goltzius imitated the style of a different artist (such as Raphael, Parmigianino, and Lucas van Leyden) to near perfection. The Circumcision, perhaps Goltzius’s most successful imitation, reproduces the brilliant contrasts of light and shadow and the glossy finish that Dürer achieved in works such as the acclaimed Saint Jerome in His Study (1514).

Subject matter
This masterful engraving depicts the circumcision of the infant Christ, who is held by a priest at the center of the gathered crowd. The Virgin Mary and Joseph stand at the front of the group of onlookers immediately behind the seated figures and gaze intently upon the child.

Physical Description
A crowd gathers in the side chapel of a church around a group of seated figures and an infant. A man with a long flowing beard sits and holds the infant in his hands above a plate, while another man leans forward in his chair and peers through his spectacles at the child as he performs a circumcision. A plaque with the artist's initials, "HG," lies on the floor in the foreground.

Primary Object Classification

Collection Area

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

chandeliers (hanging lights)
churches (buildings)

& Author Notes

Web Use Permitted