Catalog Archive
Auction 189, Lot 694

"[Columbus' Egg]", Bry, Theodore de

Subject: Prints - Exploration, Columbus

Period: 1594 (circa)

Publication: Grands Voyages, Part IV

Color: Hand Color

7.9 x 6.4 inches
20.1 x 16.3 cm
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This copper engraving is from a remarkable series of publications, illustrating voyages of discovery and travels of exploration to various parts of the world. The project was begun by Theodore de Bry of Frankfurt, in 1590 and was to continue for another 54 years. They became known collectively as the Grands Voyages (to America and the West Indies) and the Petits Voyages (to the Orient and the East Indies). De Bry died after the first six parts of the Grands Voyages were completed. The project was completed initially by his widow and two sons, Johann Theodore de Bry and Johann Israel de Bry, then by his son-in-law, Matthaus Merian in 1644.

This stunning engraving presents the apocryphal story of Columbus's egg. According to legend, Columbus was dining with Spanish noblemen, when someone suggested that finding a trade route to the Indies was no great achievement; if Columbus had not discovered the Indies, another Spaniard would have surely done so. In response, Columbus challenged everybody at the table to stand an egg on its end. After everybody at the table tried and failed, Columbus tapped the tip off the egg and stood it on the table in front of him. The lesson: "After the deed is done, everybody knows how to do it." In the engraving, Columbus is at the center, showing off his standing egg to the astonished noblemen. The scene is masterfully engraved, with intricate detail of the dining room and noblemen's wardrobes. On a partial sheet of German text measuring 8.4 x 9.3".


Condition: B+

Attractive color with light toning, minor foxing, and a tiny piece of archival tape in the bottom left corner of the image on recto. There is a small chip along the top sheet edge, and the text at bottom has been partially trimmed away.

Estimate: $160 - $190

Sold for: $300

Closed on 9/14/2022