A very rare complete set depicting the 12 months of the year with the signs of the Zodiac in a small oval at the top. As each month is represented by a man and a woman from 12 different parts of the world, this series also forms an interesting costume book.
All 12 engravings are neither signed, nor numbered, but are ascribed, first by Franken and later by Lipperheide to Crispijn de Passe the Younger, who worked from 1630 to 1639 in Utrecht and from 1640 in Amsterdam. Two Latin lines indicating the month and the origin of the couple are engraved underneath each image:
- Aquarius (January): a couple from Moscow ('Tum genialis hyems ...').
- Pisces (February): a couple from Lapland ('Lappius et denso ...').
- Aries (March): a couple from Holland ('Non calor aestivus ...').
- Taurus (April): a couple from France ('Aprilis Veneri sater ...').
- Gemini (May): a couple from Rome (Orbis delicias et ...').
- Cancer (June): a couple from Spain ('Proximus Oceano fuscis ...').
7 (=8). Leo (July): a couple from the West Indies ('Qui solis radiis ...').
8 (=7). Virgo (August): a couple from North Africa (Arte vafer ...').
- Libra (September): a couple from England ('Non calor immodicus ...').
- Scorpio (October): a couple from Germany ('Temperat austero tristis ...').
- Sagittarius (November): a couple from Austria ('Austria frigidiorseptemque ...').
- Capricorn (December): a couple from Hungary ('Hungarus egelidas ...').
These engravings are attributed to Crispijn de Passe II, probably because the plates of the series appear in the inventories of the De Passe firm from 1639 (Veldman, p. 453, nr. 199: 'Twaelf maenden in drachten in 12 plaetgen') and 1653 (Veldman, p. 456, nr. 32). Franken was the first to ascribe the engravings (on the basis of only six plates: described as those 'très belles gravures') to Crispijn II and Lipperheide has followed his attribution. The 12 engravings in our set are numbered by a contemporary hand from 539 to 550 and 'signed' by a monogram (?) 'CXXXC'.
The series is erroneously preceded by an engraved title-page from another print series: Duodecim anni menses. Die zwölff Monadt des Jarres. Inn Küpfer gestochen durch Wolffgang Kilian (Augsburg, Mathias Kager, 1617; Thieme-Becker 20, pp. 302-5).
Franken, 359-64 (only 6 plates);
Veldman, p. 453 and p. 456;
not in Hollstein