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This is our edition of Amorum emblemata of 1608. In this introduction, we have limited ourselves to the essentials.

Otto Vaenius

Otto Vaenius (or Otto van Veen) was trained as a painter and humanist.1 He was born in Leiden in 1556. In 1572, because of the political situation, he fled to the southern Netherlands with his family. In Liege he studied for a few years under Dominicus Lampsonius, and then left for a five-year stay in Italy. After his return to the southern Netherlands he stayed in Liege, Brussels and then settled in Antwerp. In all of these locations, Vaenius always tried to maintain favour with the Court. Until the return of his pupil Rubens from Italy, Vaenius was the leading painter in Antwerp. In his later years he turned to producing emblem books, notably Q. Horatii Flacci emblemata (1607), Amorum emblemata and Amoris divini emblemata. In 1612 he was appointed Master of the Archducal Mint. He moved to Brussels in 1615, where he died in 1629.

About the Amorum emblemata

Amorum emblemata was published in 1608 in several polyglot issues: Latin-Dutch-French (LDF), Latin-Italian-French (LIF) and Latin-English-Italian (LEI). At least three copies exist with added texts in Spanish. Two distinct editions of the LDF and LIF-issues were printed in the same year (1608), the LEI-issues are only found in the second edition. All of the issues contain the same pictures, Latin mottoes and quotations. However, there are some small differences in the setting of the Latin texts in the LDF, LIF and LEI-issues.2 Porteman describes textual differences between the three issues in the corpus of Latin panegyrics and in the dedicatee. The version with English epigrams is dedicated to the Earls of Pembroke, the other versions to William of Bavaria. Porteman also noted a difference in the publisher's address.3

Vaenius did not make the emblems all by himself. The pictures were engraved by Cornelis Boel (he signed Amor æternus [1] and also contributed to [Orpheus niet altijt sijn herp’ houdt hoogh ghestelt], one of the commendatory poems). The English epigrams are by Richard Verstegen, who also contributed a In comendation of the adorned author [...] M. Otho Venius, a commendatory poem. The Italian epigrams were written by Pietro Benedetti ([Genera il genitor’ un suo simile]). Vaenius himself probably wrote the Dutch epigrams.

Some Studies About Amorum emblemata

Praz, Mario was one of the first scholars who seriously studied the emblem genre. He devoted a chapter of his Praz, Seventeenth-Century Imagery to the love emblem and commented on many of Vaenius's emblems. For quite a number of them, he found sources or parallels in older emblem books (Paradin, Alciato and La Perrière). For other emblems he found sources or parallels in the familiar conceits of Petrarchan poetry.

Sebastián López, Santiago complemented Praz's efforts in Sebastiàn, Lectura crítica. He showed that many of the ideas expressed in Vaenius's emblems were around long before Petrarch. They may be found in medieval treatises on love (such as the De arte honeste amandi by Andreas Capellanus)4, and before that even in the Arab love poetry of Southern Spain, such as El collar de la paloma by Ibn Hazm.5

Porteman, Karel has devoted a range of studies to the love emblem, some of these are listed below. The most important is his Porteman, Inleiding [Introduction to Hooft's Emblemata Amatoria] to Hooft’s Hooft, Emblemata amatoria (Dutch). Porteman concurs with Praz in characterizing the love emblem as a literary genre, which drew its inspiration mainly from Ovid Hellenistic love poetry and contemporary literature about love. Petrarchan laments are certainly present, but generally in a mildly ironic way.

In his Porteman, Emblematic exhibitions to Amorum emblemata, Porteman highlights Vaenius’s role in the development of the genre. Building on Heinsius, Daniël work in Quaeris quid sit amor (1601) (see: [Titlepage]). Vaenius was the first to give Cupid a constant and dominant place in all emblems. Another innovation was the Latin quotations which anchored each emblem. The book’s intention, or its purported intention, also differs from Heinsius’s. In his dedication to the Dutch girls (see: Aen de Joncvrouwen van Hollandt) Heinsius had addressed them in the well-known Petrarchan fashion, as the cause of his suffering and yet the objects of his desire. Vaenius, in his (Cupid's) address to all young people, stresses the omnipotence of love6 and tries to win them over, not to the poet-as-lover, but to love and marriage. In line with this rather serious statement, the book clearly has an educational aspect; Porteman cites as examples a.o. Virtutis radix amor [17] (love a source of virtue), Amor addocet artes [42] (love as 'schoolmaster of the artes') and Omnis amatorem decuit color [32] (the lover having to take care to please his love). All of this should not make us forget that the book was also meant to entertain (see e.g. Errat, et in nulla sede moratur amor [48], which illustrates the restlessness of love with a Cupid figure wandering among rows of empty seats).

Daly, Peter M. also published an Daly, English Tradition, 4 of Amorum emblemata. In his preface he notes some traditional Petrarchan themes, but his main concern is with the role of Cupid, especially in the emblem pictures. Cupid may either represent love as an external powerful force, the experience of love or indeed the lover himself. Where two Cupids appear, sometimes the second carries no additional meaning, while other times one is the lover with the other representing the power of love, and occasionally they represent mutual love or the need for it. The Petrarchan orientation may be visible when the mistress sometimes takes on Cupid's role as an external force.

Influence of Amorum emblemata

The two 1608 editions of Amorum emblemata were followed by a third in 1659. An anthology appeared in 1618, titled Emblemata aliquot selectiora amatoria. The book made a larger impact than this printing history suggests. For example, in secular love emblematics it influenced Hooft’s Hooft, Emblemata amatoria as well as Heinsius’s later collection Ambacht van Cupido. In the period 1618-1620, Amorum emblemata was heavily plagiarized in the several editions of Thronus Cupidinis (see: [Titlepage]).7 Near the end of the century Philip Ayres took most of Ayres, Emblemata amatoria from Fons amoris, one of the emblem books from the turbulent period of 1618-16208. To a lesser extent, Vaenius also influenced the emblems in Sinne- en minnebeelden (1627) by Jacob Cats, which became immensely popular.

In religious emblematics Vaenius himself was the first to systematically apply the methods of the love emblem to religious subjects. Being the devoted courtier he was, after a hint from the archduchess Isabella, he published Vaenius, Amoris divini emblemata9 in 1615. He replaced Cupid with Amor divinus, the lover with a human soul, and the quotations from Ovid with ones from Augustine and Bernard. This would prove to be a fertile concept; Hugo used it in Hugo, Pia desideria and others also began to follow Vaenius’s new method.

Copies Used For This Edition

As stated before, several issues and two seperate editions of the LIF and LDF-issues of Amorum emblemata appeared in the same year. Many of the LIF and LDF-issues are hybrids, using sheets from both 1608-editions. In our edition we have chosen to present texts in all languages (except Spanish).

The Italian and English texts were taken from the 1608 edition copy of the LEI-issue conserved in the Faculty of Arts library in Utrecht University, shelf number LB-KUN: RAR LMY VEEN, O 2 (Antwerp, 1608).10

The Dutch, French and Latin texts were taken from a microfilm in the University Library of Utrecht University, the Library of Gent copy from a 1608 LDF-issue, shelf number AB: MIC YMA 44 (Antwerp, 1608).11 One of the Dutch epigrams in this copy has been erroneously replaced by an Italian text. We have transcribed v16081054 from Vaenius, Amorum Emblemata [ed. Porteman] of Amorum emblemata.

We have not yet compared these copies with others, but hope to do so in the future. The soon to be published article by Dr. S. Rawles on the 1608 editions of Amorum emblemata, will appear in the Bibliography of French Emblem Books, this should be helpful in making comparisons.

For each emblem, besides the transcription, we provide the pictura, taken from a LIF-issue of a 1608 edition. It is kept in the library of the Faculty of Arts at Utrecht University, shelf number LB-KUN: RAR LMY VEEN, O 1 (Antwerp, 1608).12 Images of the text pages are available of all the copies we used.

As stated earlier, not all editions contain the same Latin panegyrics. Our edition includes all of the poems. Similarly, we have included both dedications (Admodum Illti. Domino [dedication], to William of Bavaria and To the moste honorable, and woorthie brothers [dedication], to the Earls of Pembroke).

In the original editions the two versions of the preface, in each of the vernaculars employed in the particular edition, appear alongside each other. We have not tried to reproduce this arrangement and present them as separate texts (in English: Cupids epistle to the yonger sorte, Italian: Cupidine alla giouentu, Dutch: Cupido tot de Ieught and French: Cupidon à la Ieunesse.). The same holds true for the preliminary sonnet ([Eu’n as wee do the yeare in seasons fowre deuyde], English; [Qual in quatro stagion l&anno è diuiso], Italian; [Verscheyden is het iaer ghedeylt in vier ghetijden] Dutch and [Comme l’an est diuers en ses quatre saisons] French).


We have transcribed the full text from the Utrecht and Gent copies, and encoded it using TEI markup. TEI markup was used to allow for flexibility in presentation and non-destructive editorial enhancement of the text. The full project guidelines for transcription, editiorial intervention and indexing of the text are available elsewhere on this site.

Editorial Additions

The orthography of mosts texts was normalized with respect to the use of u, v, w, i and j. Here again, the viewer may choose between the original and the re-spelled text.

Where applicable, we have added the 'Bedeutung', and the description of the pictura as given in the Henkel and Schöne Henkel and Schöne, Emblemata. The more important motifs are indexed in the picturae and some references to parallels (in Amoris Divini emblemata or elsewhere) have been added. Where possible, these references have been hyperlinked to editions of the emblems referred to. Clicking the title of the book mentioned will take you to its bibliography, where you can find further references to emblems we are editing from the same book. In each emblem we also point to some literature.


The full Emblem Project Utrecht bibliography may be accessed using the menu option at the left side of this (or any) window. A selection of literature relevant to Vaenius and his Amorum emblemata follows here.

About Vaenius:

Modern Editions of Amorum emblemata:

About Amorum emblemata:

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This brief sketch of Vaenius's life is based on Porteman, Introduction [Amorum emblemata]
Further details are given by: Rawles, Bibliographical Context.
Porteman, Introduction [Amorum emblemata].
Sebastián quotes Capellanus for instance when he speaks about Primos aditus difficiles habet [21], Omnis amor surdis auribus esse solet [34] and Amans se suaque prodigit [103]
He quotes Ibn Hazm when he speaks about Primos aditus difficiles habet [21], Omnis amatorem decuit color [32] and Brevis et damnosa voluptas [52].
Also stressed in emblems like Vicit et superos amor [11], Conservat cuncta cupido [18] and Atlante maior [19].
See a.o. Wezel, Fons Amoris
See Westerweel, Philip Ayres
Edited on our site: Amoris divini emblemata (1615).
Landwehr, Emblem and Fable Books. In Portemans terminology, this is a copy of the 'AV'-type.
Landwehr, Emblem and Fable Books. In Portemans terminology, this is a copy of the 'AVV'-type.
Probably Landwehr, Emblem and Fable Books. In Portemans terminology, this is a copy of the 'AV'-type.