The Four Seasons

The Four Seasons images are four seventeenth century copperplate engravings of probably German or Flemish origin, each depicting a season of the year with each season used as a metaphor for one of the ages of man. They are by no means limited to their most obvious subject, anatomy, but contain allusions to alchemy, astronomy, astrology, zoology, botany, geography, physiology, urology, and palmistry as well. Each engraving contains many complex parts involving multiple layers of superimposed paper flaps and volvelles. The 504 slides, photographed by Bill Gage, have been digitally scanned to provide a master record for research purposes since this set appears to be the only extant copy of the engravings. The overall dimensions vary slightly, but are approximately 43 x 36 cm. The engravings are mounted on paste paper boards so it has not been possible to examine the verso of the sheets. The engravings travelled as part of an exhibit mounted by the National Gallery of Canada in 1996-1997 and were reproduced in their exhibition catalog, The Ingenious Machine of Nature; Four Centuries of Art and Anatomy, along with an extensive text by Bruce Russell. Previously in the possession of Sir D’Arcy Power, the engravings upon his death were sold at auction on June 9, 1941 by Sotheby’s and eventually made their way into the collection of Dr. Josiah Charles Trent, a Duke physician. In March 1992, Dr. James H. Semans and Mrs. Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans (Dr. Trent’s widow) formally gave them to the History of Medicine Collections of the Duke University Medical Center Library. On the occasion of the gift, Trent curator emeritus G.S.T. Cavanagh gave a lecture summarizing his research on The Four Seasons. Just prior to that, Mr. Cavanagh had convened an inter-disciplinary symposium in Leiden to study the engravings. A book and CD ROM of this scholarly study by H.F.J. Horstmanshoff are available for purchase. Property of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library's History of Medicine Collections, Durham, NC. Photographed by Bill Gage.

Parent Collections (1)

Total Works (248)

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  Title
 

Summer, Lower Right Section

17th Century
Summer: lower right. celestial wheel.
 

Summer, Lower Right Section

17th Century
Summer: lower right. celestial wheel.
 

Summer, Lower Right Section

17th Century
Summer: lower right. conversion table.
 

Summer, Lower Right Section

17th Century
Summer: lower right. celestial wheel.
 

Summer, Lower Right Section

17th Century
Summer: lower right. length table.
 

Summer, Basket

17th Century
Summer: basket/urinary tract layer 2.
 

Summer, Male

17th Century
Summer: male. neck/jaw layer 2.
 

Summer, Male

17th Century
Summer: male. torso layer 2.
 

Summer, Male

17th Century
Summer: male layer 1.
 

Summer, Male

17th Century
Summer: male layer 2.