Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Robert Kramer
Dear Editor,

In her charming, witty, and provocative essay based on the illustrations for Vesalius's anatomical studies ["The Fabric: A Poet's Vesalius," December 2007], Heather McHugh does not give the proper name of the creator of those brilliant and disturbing images. She refers to "Calcar"; but Calcar (Kalkar) is merely a town in northwestern Germany with a rich artistic tradition. The name of the artist is actually Jan Stephan van Calcar (1499-1546). He came to Venice in 1536 and was active in Titian's workshop. He completed the illustrations for Vesalius in 1536 in Padua. In his Lives of the Painters (1550), Vasari describes Stephan as "a praiseworthy master, both in small and large figures, and marvelous in portraits. . . His were the anatomical designs engraved and published by Andrea Vesalio, with his works, and they are worthy of honor for all time." Vasari later writes of Stephan as "my great friend," who "died young at Naples, a man of great promise, leaving his anatomical studies to Vesalio." In his Lives of the Netherlandish and German Painters (1617) Carol van Mander calls Stephan an artist "whose importance in [the history of] art, in view of his achievements, I cannot proclaim loudly enough." Examples of his portraits can be found in Paris, Berlin, and Vienna.

Obviously, I am a fan who feels a great artist has not been given his due.

Riverdale, New York

Originally Published: February 26, 2008

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This prose originally appeared in the March 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

March 2008

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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