Marten Jacobszoon Heemskerk van Veen

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Drawing of ruins, c. 1536, Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Marten Jacobszoon Heemskerk van Veen (1498October 1, 1574), was one of the leading Dutch portrait and religious painters of the 16th century.

He was born at Heemskerk in Holland, and apprenticed by his father, a small farmer, to Cornelis Willemsz and Jan Lucasz in Haarlem. Recalled after a time to the paternal homestead and put to the plough or the milking of cows, young Heemskerk took the first opportunity that offered to run away, and demonstrated his wish to leave home for ever by walking in a single day the 50 miles which separate his native hamlet from the town of Delft. There he studied under a local master whom he soon deserted for Jan van Scorel of Haarlem.

At Haarlem he formed what is known as his first manner, which is but a quaint and gauche imitation of the florid style brought from Italy by Mabuse and others, He then started on a wandering tour, during which he visited the whole of northern and central Italy, stopping at Rome, where he had letters for a cardinal. It is evidence of the facility with which he acquired the rapid execution of a scene-painter that he was selected to co-operate with Antonio da San Gallo, Battista Franco and Francesco Salviati to decorate the triumphal arches erected at Rome in April 1536 in honour of Charles V. Vasari, who saw the battle-pieces which Heemskerk then produced, says they were well composed and boldly executed.

On his return to the Netherlands he settled at Haarlem, where he soon (1540) became president of his gild, married twice, and secured a large and lucrative practice. In 1572 he left Haarlem for Amsterdam, to avoid the siege which the Spaniards laid to the place, and there he made a will which has been preserved, and shows that he had lived long enough and prosperously enough to makeafortune. At his death, he left money and land in trust to the orphanage of Haarlem, with interest to be paid yearly to any couple who should be willing to perform the marriage ceremony on the slab of his tomb in the cathedral of Haarlem. It was a superstition which still exists in Catholic Holland that a marriage so celebrated would secure the peace of the dead within the tomb.

The works of Heemskerk are still very numerous. "Adam and Eve", and "St Luke painting the Likeness of the Virgin and Child" in presence of a poet crowned with ivy leaves, and a parrot in a cagean altar-piece in the gallery of Haarlem, and the "Ecce Homo" in the museum of Ghent, are characteristic works of the period preceding Heemskerk's visit to Italy. An altar-piece executed for "St Laurence of Alkmaar" in 1538-1541, and composed of at least a dozen large panels, would, if preserved, have given us a clue to his style after his return from the south.

In its absence we have a Crucifixion executed for the Riches Claires at Ghent (now in the Ghent Museum) in 1543,and the altar-piece of the Drapers' Company at Haarlem, now in the gallery of the Hague, and finished in 1546. In these we observe that Heemskerk studied and repeated the forms which he had seen at Rome in the works of Michelangelo and Raphael, and in Lombardy in the frescoes of Mantegna and Giulio Romano. But he never forgot the while his Dutch origin or the models first presented to him by Schoreel and Mabuse.

As late as 1551 his memory still served him to produce a copy from Raphael's "Madonna di Loretto" (gallery of Haarlem). A "Judgment of Momus", dated 1561, in the Berlin Museum, proves him to have been well acquainted with anatomy, but incapable of selection and insensible of grace, bold of hand and prone to daring though tawdry contrasts of color, and fond of florid architecture. Two altar-pieces which he finished for churches at Delft in 1551 and 1559,one complete, the other a fragment, in the museum of Haarlem, a third of 1551 in the Brussels Museum, representing Golgotha, the "Crucifixion", the "Flight into Egypt", "Christ on the Mount", and scenes from the lives of St Bernard and St Benedict, are all fairly representative of his style.

Besides these we have the "Crucifixion" in the Hermitage of St Petersburg, and two "Triumphs of Silenus" in the gallery of Vienna, in which the same relation to Giulio Romano may be noted as we mark in the canvases of Rinaldo of Mantua. Other pieces of varying importance are in the galleries of Rotterdam, Munich, Cassel, Brunswick, Karlsruhe, Mainz and Copenhagen. In England the master is best known by his drawings. A comparatively feeble picture by him is the "Last Judgment" in the palace of Hampton Court.


nl:Maarten van Heemskerck


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