The J. Paul Getty Museum

Guide for Constructing the Letters f and g

Object Details


Guide for Constructing the Letters f and g


Joris Hoefnagel (Flemish / Hungarian, 1542 - 1600)


Flemish and Hungarian


Vienna, Austria (Place Created)


about 1591–1596


Watercolors, gold and silver paint, and ink on parchment

Object Number:

Ms. 20 (86.MV.527), fol. 143v


Leaf: 16.6 × 12.4 cm (6 9/16 × 4 7/8 in.)

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Object Description

On this page, a guide for constructing the lower-case letters fand g, Joris Hoefnagel took his inspiration for the decorations from the shapes of the letters themselves. Two vertical vases contain slightly bending plant forms, echoing the shape of the letter f and flanking that letter on the top of the page. Two nude caryatids, whose arched backs and protruding stomachs suggest the curved shape of the letter g, flank that letter on the bottom half of the page.

The quizzical owls perched on the tops of the vases provide an element of humor. The owl to the left peers at itself in a mirror, whose rounded shape provides a distorted reflection and recalls the German word Eulenspiegel (owlmirror), which means "roguish trick." Hoefnagel modeled the fantastic mask in the center, with acorns and oak leaves twining around its horns, on a series of contemporary prints.

The Decorated Letter (July 21 to October 6, 1987)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), July 21 to October 6, 1987
Flemish Illumination of the Late Middle Ages (November 3, 1998 to January 17, 1999)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), November 3, 1998 to January 17, 1999