Hans von Aachen

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Hans von Aachen, self-portrait ca. 1574, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne
Bacchus, Ceres and Amor (Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venus), oils, around 1600
The Amazement of the Gods, oil on copper, 14 x 18 inches, 1590s
Rudolf II. Cirka 1600.
Laughing Couple, with probable self-portrait

Hans von Aachen (1552 – 4 March 1615) was a German artist, one of the leading painters of Northern Mannerism. He was trained in the tradition of Netherlandish Renaissance painting but then spent 14 years in Italy, based in Venice, before returning to Germany, but to Bavaria in the south-west rather than his native Rhineland in the north-east.[1]

He was a versatile and productive artist, though preferring to work on a small scale; many of his works are cabinet paintings on copper. He was successful as a painter of princely and aristocratic portraits, and was also able to turn his hand to religious and mythological subjects, as well as the eroticized allegories enjoyed by the patron of his last years, Emperor Rudolph II.[2] These remain the works for which he is best known. He also painted a number of genre paintings of small groups of figures shown from the chest upwards, laughing, often apparently using himself as a model.

He remained based in Munich for several years after being appointed court artist to Rudolf in 1592, but finally moved to Rudolf's capital in Prague, where he died, having outlived his master's downfall and death by a few years; unlike most of Rudolf's artists he was retained by his successor Matthias I. Rudolph also used him as an advisor on his art collecting and what is usually called a "diplomat";[3] in other words he travelled to the owners of art collections to convey the emperor's often shameless bullying to make them accept his offers for their treasures.[4]

Although he did not produce prints himself, his paintings were much reproduced by other artist's in Rudolph's stable, and became well known and influential across Europe,[5] although the Mannerist style fell from fashion soon after his death. The first major exhibition devoted to him was in Aachen, Prague and Vienna in 2010.[6]


He was born in Cologne, but his name is derived from the birthplace of his father, Aachen in Germany. Other variations of the name include Johann von - and - von Achen and various concisions like Janachen, Fanachen, Abak, Jean Dac, Aquano, van Aken etc.

Hans von Aachen began painting in Germany as a pupil of the Flemish master E. Jerrigh. He then, like many northern artists of his time, such as Bartholomeus Spranger spent a long period in Italy. He lived in Venice from 1574 to 1588 and toured Florence and Rome during that period. He initially became a pupil of Kaspar Rems, but soon decided to develop his own mannerist technique, by studying Tintoretto and Michelangelo's followers. However, during all of his life he was influenced by the style of Bartholomeus Spranger and Hendrick Goltzius who dominated the art scene in Germany at the time.

He returned to Germany in 1588 where he became well known as a painter of portraits for noble houses. He also produced historical and religious scenes and earned a wide reputation. Among his patrons were the Fugger family.[7] He painted several works for Duke William V of Bavaria. He married Regina, the daughter of the composer Orlando di Lasso in Munich. In Munich he came into contact with the Imperial Court in Prague. In 1592 he was appointed official painter of Rudolph II, Holy Roman Emperor. However, Von Aachen only moved to Prague years later (there is contention as to the date - 1601 or 1597), where he stayed and was commissioned to paint mythological and allegorical subjects such as his Liberation of Hungary (1598, Budapest).[8] Emperor Rudolph II conferred knighthood on him in 1605.[9] He became good friends with Kryštof Popel the Younger of Lobkowicz, the Chief Steward of the Kingdom of Bohemia. Von Aachen continued working on commissions under the newly appointed ruler, Matthias I. He died in Prague.

Amongst van Aachen's pupils were Peter Isaak and Joseph Heinz. His works have been copied by Wolfgang Kilian, Dominicus Custos and Jan Sadeler.



  1. ^ Getty
  2. ^ Getty
  3. ^ Getty
  4. ^ Trevor-Roper, 104, 108-113
  5. ^ Getty
  6. ^ CODART page on the exhibition
  7. ^ Bergin, Thomas (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Renaissance (Oxford and New York: Market House Books, 1987).
  8. ^ Bergin.
  9. ^ Belkin, Kristin. "Aachen, Hans von." The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. 9 Feb. 2009


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