2 February, 2009
Artist » Mannerism (1520-1580) » Aachen, Hans von (German, 1552 - 1615)
German painter, born in Cologne (in spite of his name, which derives from his father s birthplace) and active in the Netherlands, Italy (1574-87), and most notably Prague, he settled in 1596 as court painter to the emperor Rudolf II. On Rudolf s death (1612) he worked for the emperor Matthias. His paintings, featuring elegant, elongated figures, are - like those of his colleague Bartholomeus Spranger - leading examples of the sophisticated Mannerist art then in vogue at the courts of Northern Europe, and he was particularly good with playfully erotic nudes ( The Triumph of Truth, Alte Pinakothek, Munich, 1598). Engravings after his work gave his style wide infiuence and he ranks as one of the most important German artists of his time.

In the Rhineland

Hans von Aachen is born in 1552 in Cologne. The last name ´Von Aachen´ demonstrates the family’s tie to that city. His parents originally came Aachen. During this period, Cologne is a hub of European trade. It is also a centre for art and culture in the Rhineland. Here, Hans von Aachen trains with a Flemish painter and enters the Cologne painters’ guild around 1573.

In Italy

The next year Hans von Aachen leaves for Italy. In Venice, Rome and Florence he studies the great Italian masters. He is inspired by their innovative and elegant style of painting. He connects these new influences with what he had learned in Cologne and in that way develops an entirely personal style. Italian extravagance is mixed with Flemish realism. With this new style Hans von Aachen becomes very successful in the art world. He is given prestigious assignments. For the Jesuit church of Il Gesù in Rome he paints a large altarpiece with ´The Birth of Christ´. After that he becomes a court painter for the first time, for Grand Duke Francesco de’Medici in Florence.

In Bavaria

In 1588, Hans von Aachen returns to Germany. Again he is given important commissions, this time by the Duke of Bavaria and his court. In Augsburg he also works for the important family of bankers, the Fuggers. Hans von Aachen uses these assignments to refine his portrait painting as well as his mythological and religious scenes. In addition to paintings he now also creates designs for prints. The spread of these prints throughout Europe only increases his already great renown.

In Prague

In the 1590´s, Hans von Aachen reaches the height of his career: Rudolf the Second, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, knights Hans and asks him to come to his court in Prague. He moves there in 1596, together with his new, young wife Regina, daughter of the famous composer Orlando di Lasso. At court they are part of a circle of extraordinary artists and scientists, among them the astronomer Johannes Kepler, the painter Bartholomeus Spranger and the sculptor Adriaen de Vries. Hans von Aachen doesn’t only work as a painter. As confidant of the emperor, he travels throughout Europe, as a diplomat and art agent.

In Europe, in the art world

Hans von Aachen dies in 1615, father to two daughters and two sons. He is honoured even after his death by being buried in the Prague St. Vitus Cathedral. He leaves behind many masterpieces, spread throughout Europe. This year they will be brought together for the first time – to give Hans von Aachen back the fame he once had.

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