Academic journal article Notes

A Tribute from Johannes Eccard to Orlando Di Lasso at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis

Academic journal article Notes

A Tribute from Johannes Eccard to Orlando Di Lasso at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis

Article excerpt

A few years ago the library of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, obtained an unusual copy of the 1590 second edition of Icones sire Imagines virorum literis illustrium by Nicolaus Reusner (1545-1602). (1) It contains many blank leaves bound in and several tipped in among the biographical sketches in leones. The tipped-in leaves include handwritten pages by Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon. The bound-in blank leaves contain some two hundred inscriptions and signatures related to the nearby biographical subjects. Among the latter is a handwritten tribute from Johannes Eccard to Orlando di Lasso, dated 1593 (fig. 1). How this copy of Icones came to include Eccard's tribute, along with those of so many of his contemporaries, and how the book found its way over the centuries from Europe to St. Louis would make a fascinating story, if only more details were known. Nevertheless, the story of Icones and its dependence on other early printed books is no less interesting, and it is the logical starting point for an examination of Concordia's copy of the book.


Icones is a collection of portraits of noted theologians, historians, poets, jurists, and other learned persons, most of whom lived during the sixteenth century in German-speaking realms. The first edition of Icones was issued in 1587 by the same publisher as in 1590, Bernhard Jobin, with the same tide, followed in a few months by an edition with German rather than Latin text. (2) A facsimile of the first edition was published in 1973. (3) Most of the portraits have brief biographies appended, and many of them are also followed by several poems in praise of their subjects. The selection of subjects is heavily weighted towards reformers of the church, including Martin Luther himself. The only musician to have an entry in the collection is Orlando di Lasso, whose music was highly esteemed by the evangelical church, though his own sympathies undoubtedly lay with the Counter-Reformation. (4)

The idea of issuing a collection of portraits of famous men was not new when Icones was first published. According to Manfred Lemmer, an important model for their enterprise was provided in Basel by Peter Perna, (5) who in 1571 began to issue a series of Elogia (inscriptions or epitaphs) of famous men that had been collected in Como by Paolo Giovio (1483-1552), a courtier and historian who eventually became bishop of Nocera. Giovio's inscriptions were in effect a descriptive catalog of a gallery of portraits he had assembled that became famous far and wide. Perna published copies of many of these portraits in three volumes, based on Giovio's collection; these volumes included copies of the portraits and also short biographies (the Elogia) of the illustrious warriors, men of letters, and other notables they portrayed. The portraits were printed from woodcuts made by the illustrator and portrait painter Tobias Stimmer (1539-1584), who had been sent by Perna to Como for the purpose of copying the portraits in Giovio's collection. Among Stimmer's many publications after Perna's collections are the portraits in Reusner's Icones. Perna's Elogia contained few entries for individuals from German realms, which was also true of similar collections that were published soon afterwards. Reusner's Icones filled that gap.

Collections of portraits might be considered a subgenre within the larger category of collections of biographies, which has its roots in classical antiquity with writers such as Plutarch and Suetonius. In connection with Lasso, one such sixteenth-century collection is of special interest, Heinricus Pantaleon's Prosopographiae. (6) Among the political figures and learned men whose biographies appear there, Lasso is the only musician, indeed the only representative of the fine arts in general. (7) Since this is also true of Reusner's Icones, one may reasonably ask if there is any connection between the two books.

One connection may be the biography itself. …

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