Noah Building the Ark
Jan (Johannes) Sadeler (1550-1600) came from a talented and successful family of printmakers with an international reputation as their work circulated widely in Europe as well as the Spanish colonies. He began his working life as a damascener – a skilled steel-chiseller – but then moved to Antwerp where he joined the Guild of St Luke in 1572 and worked as a copperplate engraver. There it is believed that he met the artist Maarten de Vos, also a member of the Guild of St Luke. Maarten de Vos was a prolific Flemish painter with a particular interest in historical scenes, primarily religious and mythological scenes. This line engraving of Noah working on his Ark is an excellent example of de Vos’s lively and energetic work and Sadeler’s engraving skill.
Noah’s Ark is the focus of an interesting article published in the Mariner’s Mirror in 1950 ‘Ships of Destiny’ in which the author discusses a personal selection of five ships of seminal significance: Noah’s Ark, an apparently sound structure without propulsion or guidance systems; the Phoenician vessel described by Xenophon, demonstrating impressively efficient stowage and management; William the Conqueror’s ship Mora from representations in the Bayeux Tapestry and a carving in Winchester Cathedral; Columbus’s Santa Maria, with a fuller discussion based on contemporary records; the Chinese junk described by Marco Polo, quoting his full account of the construction, rigging, manning, handling and operation of such vessels. The Chinese junk combines the best features of the others with additional ideas not adopted in Europe until hundreds of years later.