Bishop’s Crosier watermark
The 'Bishop’s Crosier' featured in the paper used for an early etching and drypoint Annie Haden 1860 appears to be one of the oldest watermarks yet found in the Whistler collection at the National Gallery of Australia, with a probable date in the 16th century.
The 'Bishop’s Crosier' has been documented in various forms by Walter F Tschudin in his publication The Ancient Paper-Mills of Basle and their Marks and does not seem to be previously recorded in relation to Whistler’s work.
Although there are numerous versions of this watermark, a near identical illustration appears in Briquet’s Les Filigranes.1 The variation that appears on Annie Haden, one of Whistler’s most cherished etchings, was used by the Düring papermill at Basel (aka Basle) c.1565–1585.
The design of the watermark (also known as the ‘Crosier of Basle’) derives from the richly-adorned staff of Saint Germanus, a divine born in 610 in Treves and appointed the first Abbot of a monastery in the Swiss Jura. He was martyred in 675 by flaying, but his stave survives in the church at Delsburg, south-west of Basel.2
The circles decorating the crook of the staff are representations of tendrils, a popular Gothic design element. The cross and the circles at the base are the personal mark of the papermaker, Hans Düring, who bought the Basel mill in 1550 and was admitted to the Saffron Guild (a guild of merchants) in the same year. The mill was held by his descendants until 1764.
Annie Haden is one of Whistler’s largest etchings, with an image size of 35.0 x 21.4 cm. It is printed on the wire side of a full sheet of antique laid paper, resulting in the watermark appearing inverted when viewed from the image side.
The appearance of darkened chain lines indicates that the paper was formed on a single-faced mould. The felt side of the paper has a distinct fibrous pattern, which often appears on paper created in France and regions nearby.
Bill Hamilton and Kassandra Coghlan
watermark centre: [small 'Bishop of Crosier' originating in Basel Switzerland, identified with a probable date in the 16th century]