volume (60.5 x 43 x 5 cms) inscr. in oval frame "F. PHILIBERTUS DE NILLIACO" CRE THOMASSIN, Philippe; (French; 1526-1622) This volume is part of William Hunter's original bequest. Of its 102 portraits, inserted onto 60 pages, 89 are from two sets of portraits of Grand Masters of the Order of St. John with many of the sitters represented twice. This print is from the 1588 set engraved for the Order's book of statutes "Statuta Hospitalis Hierusalem".
The Order of St John was created in Jerusalem to care for the sick. Officially recognised by Pope Pascal II in 1113, it became a military and political force of great power and played a crucial role in the Crusades.
French Knight Philibert de Naillac served as 33rd Grand Master of the Order from 1396 to 1421 whilst they were based in Rhodes. His portrait, like most Grand Masters portraits prior to 1450, was probably invented although some likenesses were found on coins.
Thomassin's prints are among the earliest examples of such sets of portraits. They became very popular in the 17th century as the fashion for collecting portraits of famous historical figures developed (Glaha 17001).