n.d. Single card (8 7/8 inches tall), central engraved portrait set in an incised engraved border, both mounted within a slender double frame in red, with pencil caption to lower margin. A nearly fine piece of ephemera. Item #1084
"EVEN WHEN YOU SUFFER SOMETHING FOR THE SAKE OF JUSTICE, YOU ARE BLESSED" (1 PETER 3)
Exceptional engraved portrait of Father Henry Garnet, S.J. — set within a larger illustrated border honoring the memory of the Jesuit Provincial executed for the Gunpowder Plot.
A conspiracy to assassinate King James I was exposed in November 1605 when Guy Fawkes was arrested with explosives in the cellars underneath the House of Lords. The small circle of conspirators gathered around Robert Catesby was uncovered and the Jesuit priests in England were quickly implicated in the plot. Several Jesuits escaped the priest hunters but Garnet was finally arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. After lengthy series of interrogations where he attempted to equivocate about his knowledge of the conspiracy, Garnet was tried and found guilty and executed in St. Paul's Churchyard on May 3, 1606. Challoner's entry on Garnet (in Memoirs of Missionary Priests) concludes: "Father Garnet suffered in the fifty-first year of his age, and the thirtieth year after entering into the Society. His head was fixed on London Bridge."
Possibly dating to the 1870's (when Garnet was proposed with the other martyrs) this plate is both unusual and of exceptional beauty. The undated copper-engraved portrait (3 3/4 inches tall), is likely based on what is said to be the only single contemporary likeness of Garnet, which was engraved by Johan Wierix. The image is captioned in the plate with a Latin quote from the First Epistle of Peter: "si quid patimini propter iustitiam, beati petri Henricius Garnetus anglus e societate IESV." Garnet's likeness could possibly have formed part of a series of the Jesuit Martyrs, its size making it easy to carry and conceal. The portrait is set within a lithographed border on tinted paper with finely rendered miniature vignettes in the margins: the Tower of London, a public execution at the gallows, priest hunters with a prisoner in tow, four skulls and crossbones (two of which are entwined with instruments of torture).
Garnett’s defense of equivocation has long remained controversial as potentially undermining to the position of Catholics in England and he remains un-canonized among the "dilati": "We have as yet nothing like an authoritative pronouncement from Rome on the subject of Garnet's martyrdom. His name was indeed proposed with that of the other English Martyrs and Confessors in 1874, and his cause was then based upon the testimonies of Bellarmine and the older Catholic writers. But these ancient authorities are not acquainted with Garnet's actual confessions which were not known or published in their time. As the discussion proceeded, their evidence was found to be inconclusive, and an open verdict was returned; thus his martyrdom was held to be neither proved nor disproved. This of course led to his cause being 'put off' (dilatus) for further inquiry, which involves in Rome a delay of many years" (Catholic Encyclopedia). The Jesuit historian John Hungerford Pollen (in his 1924 revised edition of Challoner) comments on Garnet's Cause: "the Promoter Fidei took objection in particular to the words "there is but one man upon earth, who can prove that I had (knowledge of the plot).'The words might not be a breach of the seal, but they did not seem consistent with the heroic virtue necessary for the beatification of a martyr for the seal of confession...we may hope that when Garnet's cause can be re-opened, a favourable view will be taken of his claim to martyrdom." Richard Challoner. Memoirs of Missionary Priests (John Hungerford Pollen, editor), 282-283.