Guide for Constructing the Letters f and g

Joris Hoefnagelabout 1591–1596

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

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.


  • Title: Guide for Constructing the Letters f and g
  • Creator: Joris Hoefnagel
  • Date Created: about 1591–1596
  • Location Created: Vienna, Austria
  • Physical Dimensions: Leaf: 16.6 × 12.4 cm (6 9/16 × 4 7/8 in.)
  • Type: Folio
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Watercolors, gold and silver paint, and ink on parchment
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 86.MV.527.143v
  • Culture: Flemish and Hungarian
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 20, fol. 143v
  • Creator Display Name: Joris Hoefnagel (Flemish / Hungarian, 1542 - 1600)
  • Classification: Manuscripts (Documents)

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