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Christoffel Jegher
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Cristoffel Jegher, a woodcut artist who lived and worked in Antwerp, is remembered for the nine woodcuts he created following the designs and under the close supervision of Sir Peter Paul Rubens during the 1630s. These works have been described as among the finest of the prints made in Northern Europe during the Baroque era. The Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1633-1636, Holl. 4 ii/iii) in the Museums’ collections is a fine example. Jegher was born in August 1596 and was baptized on August 24 of that year. No information survives about his early training, other than speculation that he was taught by another woodcutter, perhaps Christoffel van Sichem II (ca. 1581-1658), who did work for the Plantin Press in Antwerp, Jegher’s eventual employer. Records show that Jegher was married in Antwerp’s Church of St. André in 1613 at the age of seventeen. There is no record of how he was employed until 1625, when at the age of 29 he joined the work force of the Plantin Press, owned by Balthasar Moretus (1574-1641). Jegher was admitted to the artist’s Guild of St. Luke in Antwerp during the Guild’s year 1627-1628 as a woodcutter. His work appears as illustrations in a variety of books published by Plantin, including religious works from 1626 until 1642, a natural history published in 1635, and a 1645 re-issue of an earlier book depicting images of princes and political leaders. But among his works the nine woodcuts after Rubens stand out. Ever the businessman, Rubens had long hired engravers to make reproductions of his paintings. The engravings circulated over all of Europe, introducing his art to those who could not travel to see the paintings. Rubens went to great length to protect his works against copying by securing copyrights from several countries, including the States General of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. Rubens employed a variety of engravers, such as Paulus Pontius (1603-1658) and Lucas Vorsterman the Elder (1595-1675), but Jegher was the only woodcutter. Probably Moretus introduced Rubens to Jegher. The woodcuts they created cover a variety of subjects and three of them used multiple wood blocks to create “chiaroscuro” colored prints, reviving a technique popular in the 16th-century. The excellence of the prints is no doubt due to the careful editing of trial proofs done by Rubens, several examples of which survive. Jegher made woodcuts after several other artists, but none of the prints achieved the greatness of those after Rubens. While Jegher flourished during the 1630s, the volume of his work diminished thereafter and he was no longer associated with the Plantin Press after 1643. He apparently died sometime between September 18, 1652 and September 17, 1653; the records of the Guild of St. Luke for that year note that the debt for his funeral had not been paid to the Guild. (TNB 1/2013) Selected bibliography: Myers, Mary L. "Rubens and the woodcuts of Christoffel Jegher." Metropolitan Museum of Art bulletin 25 (Summer 1966): 7-23. Sutton, Peter C. The Age of Rubens. Exhibition catalog, with Marjorie E. Wiesman, et al. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent: Ludion, 1993.