Passe, Crispin

, the chief of a family of engravers, and likewise a man of letters, was a native of Utrecht, but we have no account of his education, or dates either of birth or death. It appears that he applied himself very early in life to the study of the arts, and particularly delighted in drawing and designing from the works of the most eminent artists his contemporaries. He was sent by prince Maurice to teach drawing in an academy at Paris. At what time he came to England is not very clear none of his works done here are dated, says Vertue, later than 1635. From the paucity of English heads engraved by Crispin, and other circumstances, lord Orford seems inclined to doubt whether he ever was in England, and thinks it not improbable that drawings were sent to him from this country, as we know was the case afterwards with Houbraken, when he was employed on the “Illustrious Heads.

How long he lived is not known. His fame was at itj highest from 1610 or sooner to 1643. In this last year, when probably very old, he published at Amsterdam his famous drawing book in Italian, French, High and Lovr Dutch, a folio, with forty-eight plates. His next work, according to lord Orford, was entitled “Instruction du roy en Texercise de monter a cheval, par Messire Antoine de PJuvinel,” a work in dialogues, French and Dutch, foolish enough in itself, but adorned with many cuts admirably designed and engraved, and with many portraits. Holland’s “HerooJogia” was executed at his expence, for which he employed the best Flemish engravers, but does not mention any share he had himself in that collection of portraits. Crispin Passe’s works are so numerous that it would be difficult to obtain a complete catalogue. Lord | Orford and Mr. Strutt have mentioned the principal, as connected with the English series; but they have omitted his Virgil, Homer, and Ovid, and his “Hortus Floridus,” the latter a folio, and the other in 4to, which are much valued abroad, but very scarce. There is, or was, a complete collection of his illustrated books, and single plates, in the royal library at Paris, and many of them are in every English collector’s portfolio or library.

Passe worked entirely with the graver, in a neat, clear style, which has much originality in it; and, excepting some little stiffness which frequently appears, and the want of harmony, with respect to the distribution of the light and shadow, a fault which prevailed at the time in which he lived, his best works possess a very considerable share of merit, especially his portraits, many of which he drew from the life; and the far greater part of his historical and emblematical subjects are engraved from his own compositions. He drew the human figure very correctly, and marked the extremities with a degree of exactness, not usually found in the works of those masters who employed themselves upon small subjects; when he attempted large ones he was not equally successful.

His family consisted of three sons, Crispin, William, and Simon, and a daughter Magdalen, all of whom, except perhaps the first, attained considerable fame in their father’s art. William and Simon resided some time in England, and executed many portraits in the English series, but particulars of their lives are unknown. 1


Walpole and —Strutt.