Museum press release, December 2004
The series of drawings of the Twelve months by Hans Bol (Mechelen 1534-1593 Amsterdam) is unique. It is the only completely preserved and substantial series of studies for a cycle of engravings by the artist. The series is of great cultural-historical importance and should therefore be conserved for the Netherlands. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen wishes to acquire the drawings and has organized an exhibition featuring this series, which runs from December 18, 2004 until February 13, 2005. Mr I. Opstelten, Mayor of Rotterdam, started off the fund-raising drive on December 17, 2004 and thereby opened the exhibition of the drawings to be acquired.
The Twelve Months by Hans Bol are drawn on small, circular pieces of paper. The drawings show activities that are typical for a certain time of the year, such as tree felling in November, harvesting fruit in September and slaughtering cattle in December. The signs of the zodiac dominate the images. These works of art show the influence of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The theme of the twelve months was often used in the sixteenth century, but the series made by Hans Bol stands out because of its originality: the combination of a realistic representation of nature and the elegance of the composition is unique.
The limited measurements – only 14 centimetres in diameter – did not keep the artist from representing details with meticulous precision. Another special feature is the fact that the cities that form the stage for some of the activities shown can be recognized as Antwerp, Brussels and Bergen op Zoom. This shows that Bol was a pioneer in the representation of townscape.
The series of drawings is accompanied by works of art made by Bol’s contemporaries, including Maarten van Heemskerck, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Jan Breughel the Elder, Jacob Savery and David Vinckboons. The drawings and engravings by these artists are part of the Museum’s permanent collection. The majority of these works are part of the two main sub-collections of the Print Room of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen: the Koenigs Collection (drawings) and the Bierens de Haan Collection (engravings).
Hans Bol constitutes an important link between Flemish art and the art of the Northern Netherlands, especially in the representation of landscape. Trained in the ‘Mechelse’ tradition of water-colour painting, Bol later preferred small formats and specialized in miniature drawings, usually in colour. Apart from these miniature gouaches, Bol left a substantial graphic oeuvre which consists of both drawings and engravings. The earliest drawing we know, a landscape drawn in 1557, is part of the collection of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.
The series was once part of the collection of the well-known Harlem art collector, Franz Koenigs (1881-1941). When he died, his children inherited the Twelve months. In 2001, the series was auctioned and bought by a gallery. The Job Dura Fonds bought the series in 2003 to keep it in the Netherlands, at least for the time being, and to enable the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen to raise the necessary funds for the acquisition of the series. The fund-raising drive organized by the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is supported by the Vereniging Rembrandt and the Mondriaan Foundation among others. The amount needed to acquire the series of drawings is 2.1 million Euro. To arrange the financing of this acquisition, more sponsors are sought.