BIOGRAPHY: Johannes Jacobus Warnaar

Johannes Jacobus (Jan) Warnaar (1866-1959) started his career at the works of the famous Dutch silversmith Van Kempen as a 14-year-old lad, in 1880, where he was taught the art of engraving. Being very talented, he was soon able to develop his skill and start designing pieces of silverware too. He made quite a name for himself and even though he rarely signed his work, experts have been able to identify most of it. His silverware may be found in many national museums and it does still come up at international top class auctions.

However, in 1922, Warnaar left the firm to go to the printers Enschedé and Sons, where he was employed as a stamp engraver. Here, too, he made quite a name for himself. His arrival at Enschedé’s coincided with the upcoming Silver Jubilee of Queen Wilhelmina for which a special commemorative set would be issued. This was quite a special occasion in those days as it had been ten years since the last commemorative stamp issue.

The Dutch postal authorities had invited Professor Aarts, probably the most famous engraver of his time, to engrave the dies for the two different designs. Aarts had also engraved the previous commemorative set, in 1913, to mark the Centenary of the Dutch monarchy. 

Enschedé, however, being used to working with their own designers and engravers for banknotes and other security documents, had asked their new and promising employee Warnaar to make dies as well. When submitted to the authorities, they actually preferred Warnaar’s dies to those of Aarts. When Aarts, who was unaware of there being ‘competition’, heard of that, he exploded and threatened to abandon the whole project. The authorities, not wanting to alienate Aarts too much, hastily arranged for each engraver to do one particular design. And so Warnaar got to engrave the Wilhelmina portrait, which would eventually be used for the bulk of the set. Both Enschedé and Warnaar himself were rather pleased that their work on both dies was thought to be superior to that of famous Professor Aarts!

It would mark the beginning of a successful career for Warnaar, who stayed at Enschedé until his retirement in 1936. During that time Warnaar, would engrave some fine portrait stamps for the Netherlands. Among those are the two stamps that make up the 1934 Crisis issue. The design phase for these stamps had taken so much longer than expected that it took the combined effort of three engravers, among which Warnaar, to finish the dies.

Warnaar’s final work, too, were portrait stamps. In 1935, he engraved two values for the newly inaugurated ‘Summer Stamps’, a new series with a surcharge for the Social and Cultural relief Fund, which, in the 1930s especially, showcased the talents of the various Dutch engravers on a range of portraits of eminent Dutchmen and women. Warnaar engraved the portraits of Guyot and Sweelinck, the latter again in collaboration with another engraver.

You will find Johannes Jacobus Warnaar's database HERE.

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