Jan Sanders van Hemessen

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Jan Sanders van Hemessen (c. 1500 – c. 1566) was a Flemish Northern Renaissance painter. He played an important role in the development of genre painting, with large scenes with religious or moral subjects, but a crowded group of strongly characterized figures, focusing on human failings such as greed and vanity. He also painted portraits.

Brothel scene, painted c. 1545-1550
The Surgeon, painted 1555


He was born in Hemiksem, then called Hemessen or Heymissen. He was an apprentice of Hendrick van Cleve I in Antwerp.[1] He traveled to Italy early in his career, around 1520. He was established in Antwerp by 1524.[2]


Hemessen specialized in scenes of human character flaws such as vanity and greed. His pictures are often religious, while his style helped found the Flemish traditions of genre painting. Hemessen was also a portrait painter, and his daughter Caterina van Hemessen also became a portrait painter.[3]

The Surgeon of 1555 is an oil painting by Jan Sanders van Hemessen in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain. The scene represents a cutter of kidney stones and tumours at a fair. The surgeon, who is clearly happy that his operations have been successful, painstakingly moves his knife towards the stone, which is already visible. Behind him hang stones which have been successfully cut out of the head of other patients as a sign of his skill. Next to the quack stands a man who is wringing his hands in desperation, clearly going to be the next patient under the scalpel. However, the stone which caused the disease was believed to be in the brain and had to be surgically removed.


  • St. Jerome (1548)
  • The Surgeon (1555), Museo del Prado, Madrid
  • The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (c. 1556)
  • Woman Weighing Gold
  • Vanitas
  • Judith Holofernes, Chicago Museum of Art
  • Allegorical Scene
  • The Holy Family
  • Isaac Blessing Jacob
  • Virgin and Child,
  • Tarquin and Lucretia
  • Merry Company
  • Tobias Restores His Father's Sight


  • Israel van Mentz - Hupse Martin


  1. ^ Jan van Hemessen at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
  2. ^ Chilvers, Ian. The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (2009 Oxford Reference Online ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  3. ^ Kemperdick, 98


  • Kemperdick, Stephan. The Early Portrait, from the Collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein and the Kunstmuseum Basel. Munich: Prestel, 2006. ISBN 3-7913-3598-7

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