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Design for grotesque ornament

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Antwerp (engraved)

  • Date:

    1556 (engraved)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Floris, Cornelis II (engraver)
    Cock, Hieronymus (publisher)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Etching and engraving on laid paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery, case 15, shelf DRAWER

Cornelis Floris was one of the foremost inventors of this style of grotesque decoration which incorporates disturbing imagery of human figures trapped within boney and gristly structures. The nightmarish quality of the central area is enlivened by the playfulness of the putti across the top, the fish which swims down the tree trunk and the comical snails which lend a humourous streak to such compositions. The masks, grotesques and strapwork seen in this example were common features of Mannerism and were a new contribution to ornamental design which was much admired and copied in northern Europe. Antwerp was a major centre of printmaking and distribution, with Cornelis Floris one of its most prolific printmakers. Prints such as this spread these styles across Europe.

Physical description

Upright grotesque with auricular and strapwork forms containing trapped male and female figures and demi-figures emerging from the trunk of a tree. The whole suspended from a lion mask. At the top of the structure are nine putti with festoons of fruit. Lettered F bottom centre.

Place of Origin

Antwerp (engraved)


1556 (engraved)


Floris, Cornelis II (engraver)
Cock, Hieronymus (publisher)

Materials and Techniques

Etching and engraving on laid paper

Marks and inscriptions

Bottom centre of the print. Part of the sequence of letters for each page of the set

In pencil on the top right hand corner of the print

A cross above a crowned shield


Height: 30.9 cm platemark, Width: 20.6 cm platemark, Height: 32.3 cm size of sheet, Width: 22.3 cm size of sheet

Object history note

The plates (title-page and eleven plates), from which this print comes, comprises a set entitled 'Veelderleij Veranderinghe van grotissen ende Compertimenten ghemaeckt tot dienste van alle die de Conste beminne ende ghebruiken', and was published by Hieronimus Cock in 1556. Museum number 29170.1 is lettered with the title and 'ghedruckt bij Hieronimus Cock 1556 Cornelis Floris Iventor Libro Primo Cum G. Et Privilegio'.

Historical context note

Désiré Guilmard records only 10 plates including the title page. Robert Hedicke notes that those lettered G and I in the set are also known without letters. A.J.J.Delen (p.138) says that this set and the second book were engraved by J. and L. van Duetecum. Hedicke suggests that the designs were only published by Cock some years after they were originally made. The design lettered I in the set was used by De Coster (Dominicus Custos) in 1618 in the composition of cartouches for the portraits of the Fuggers, a set of 127 entitled 'Images: Fuggerorum et Fuggerarum', two impressions from this set with identical cartouches are in the Department of Prints and Drawings, nos. 24965.1 and 7 (Note from departmental catalogue).

Descriptive line

Design for a grotesque ornament by Cornelis Floris II (1514-1575); etching and engraving

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

'Some Main Streams and Tributaries in European Ornament from 1500 to 1750', Peter Ward-Jackson; Victoria and Albert Museum; 1969
'Les maîtres ornemanistes, ....; Désiré Guilmard; Paris; 1880-81
'Cornelis Floris und die Florisdekoration'; Robert Hedicke; Berlin; 1913
'Berlin Staatliche Museen: Katalog der Ornamentstichsammlung'; Berlin II; Berlin and Leipzig; 1936-39
'Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts c.1450-1700'; F.W.H. Hollstein; Amsterdam, 1949 ff.

Labels and date


Prints were one of the main ways by which styles spread across Europe. The masks, grotesques and strapwork seen in these examples were common features of Mannerism.

Antwerp, where three of these prints come from, was a major centre of printmaking and distribution, with Cornelis Floris one of its most prolific printmakers. He specialised in devising bizarre scenes incoroporating fantastic monsters and the natural world.

Grotesque scene with huge gaping mouth
Cornelis Floris (1514-75)

Southern Netherlands
(Belgium), Antwerp

Etching [on paper]

Museum no. 29170.5A []


Printing ink; Laid paper


Engraving (printing process); Etching (printing process)

Subjects depicted

Putti; Snails (animal); Fruit; Auricular; Lion's head; Ornament; Grotesques; Strapwork; Festoons


Prints; Images Online


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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