Portrait of Jean Calvin.
[Switzerland?], 1698. (AET1281)

Close inspection reveals that this portrait of the French Protestant reformer Jean Calvin (1509–1564) is actually an outstanding example of micrography, an outgrowth of the medieval Jewish custom in which images or patterns were fashioned out of lines of tiny calligraphy. Based on a painting by Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515–1586), this portrait of Calvin consists of the handwritten text of the first chapter of Martin Luther’s German translation of Ecclesiasticus, a book of the biblical Apocrypha that glorifies the eternal wisdom of God. The Latin motto at the bottom of the portrait may be translated as “at whom the impious snarl in vain.”

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Readable Objects