The Set of the Four Elements by Hendrick Goltzius and the Use of Engravings in the Seventeenth Century
Goltzius’s engravings were popular almost immediately after their completion and are a testimony to the artist’s virtuoso technical skills and inventive composing abilities. This chapter analyses the four-element series of 1586 and attempts to paint a picture of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century afterlife of the engravings. It examines artworks from different locations in various mediums, focusing on how the allegorical depictions ended up in a partially or completely different iconographical context, what kind of objects were used to decorate and, throughout the process, how the Mannerist style of Goltzius transformed with each specific medium. The four elements decorating Blaeu’s map were modified from Goltzius’s original compositions, as neither the inscriptions nor the biblical scenes are present. Combining the depiction of the four elements with Christian symbols—just like in the case of the engagement gifts—clearly deviates from the Paracelsian ideas behind Golt-zius’s sheets.