Lucas van Leyden

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A portrait of Lucas van Leyden by Albrecht Dürer, June 1521

Lucas van Leyden (1494 – 8 August 1533), also named either Lucas Hugensz or Lucas Jacobsz, was a Dutch engraver and painter. Lucas van Leyden was among the first Dutch exponents of genre painting and is generally regarded as a very accomplished engraver.[1]


Healing of blind man of Jericho, triptych transferred to single canvas, 1531
Potiphar's Wife Displays Joseph's Garment

Lucas was the son of Huygh Jacobsz. He was born, died, and was mainly active in Leiden.

Carel van Mander characterizes Lucas as a tireless artist, who as a child annoyed his mother by working long hours after nightfall, which she forbid not only for the cost of candlelight, but also because she felt that too much study was bad for his sensibilities. According to Van Mander, as a boy he only consorted with other young artists, such as painters, glass-etchers and goldsmiths, and was paid by the Heer van Lochorst (Johan van Lockhorst of Leiden, who died in 1510) a golden florin for each of his years at age 12 for a watercolor of St. Hubert.[2]


Lost work, After Lucas van Leyden
Lot and his Daughters

He learned basic techniques from his father[3] and from Cornelis Engelbrechtsz, but his precocious originality was paramount. Where he learnt engraving is unknown, but he took advantage of the works of Marcantonio Raimondi, whose motifs are reworked in Lucas' engravings and paintings, and became highly skilled in that art at a very early age: the earliest known print by him (Mohammed and the Murdered Monk) dates from 1508, when he was perhaps only 14, yet reveals no trace of immaturity in inspiration or technique.

Seventeen paintings surely by Lucas survive, and a further twenty-seven are known from descriptions by Carel van Mander, from contemporary copies or from drawings of them made by Jan de Bisschop in the later 17th century.[4] Max Friedländer[5] descried no clear pattern of stylistic development, in large part because Lucas' oeuvre was swelled and obscured by attributions since found unsustainable.

Four broad stages in his artistic development are characterized by Elise Lawton Smith as his early half-length figures (c 1506-1512), the development of his landscapes (c 1512-1520), the influence of Antwerp paintings (c 1521-25) and the late works (ca 1525-1531), where multiple figures are deployed against wooded landscapes, as in the Healing of blind man of Jericho (illustration).

Religious Art[edit]

The Holy Family

Lucas engraved multiple depictions of famous Biblical scenes, including Adoration of the Magi, The Virgin and Child on the Crescent, and The Holy Family.

The Power of Women Series[edit]

From 1513 to 1517, Lucas created a series of woodcuts called “The Power of Women,” which consisted of two large and small sets of prints.[6] The series is one of a number of representations of the Power of Women theme, which was extremely popular in Renaissance art and literature. Artworks in the genre depict the traditional roles of men and women in inverse, with women dominating over men in various situations. The subjects illustrated often consist of legendary historical women who were considered to be virtuous heroines as well as women who were considered cunning, seductive, and manipulative of men. The purpose of the "Power of Women" theme was to demonstrate that even the strongest and wisest of men were not resistant to the sexuality of women.[7]

Large Power of Women (1513—)[edit]

The Mouth of Truth: A woman kneels in front of the Emperor of Rome and places her hand in the mouth of a statue of a lion while a crowd observes in the background.[8]

The Fall of Man: In the foreground, Eve stands to the left of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, around which a serpent is wrapped, and hands an apple to Adam, who sits to the right of the tree. In the background to the right, an angel drives Adam and Eve out of Eden.[9]

[10]Samson and Delilah

Samson and Delilah: Delilah sits a bed of rocks while Samson lies sleeping in her lap. She holds his hair in one hand and cuts it with a knife.[11]

Solomon’s Idolatry: King Solomon kneels in front of an idol of Moloch in the center foreground while one of his mistresses and a crowd of men observe him from behind.[12]

Herod and Herodias: Herod and Herodias sit at a table while their daughter Salome approaches them, holding a plate bearing the head of St. John the Baptist.[13]

The Poet Virgil Suspended in a Basket: Virgil is shown stranded in a basket hung on the side of a tower in the town square, with a jeering crowd below him.[14]

Small Power of Women (1517—)[edit]

The Fall of Man: In the foreground, Adam and Eve are around the tree of knowledge of good and evil, with the serpent wrapped around the trunk and holding an apple. In the background, an angel drives Adam and Eve out of paradise.[15]

[16]Jael Killing Sisera

Jael Killing Sisera: In the foreground, Jael hammers a tent peg into Sisera's ear as he lies on the ground. In the middle ground on the right, Jael points out the foreground scene to a group of armed Israelites. In the background on the left, Sisera drinks from a goblet given to him by Jael.[17]

Samson and Delilah: Same as woodcut of larger size. Delilah sits a bed of rocks while Samson lies sleeping in her lap. She holds his hair in one hand and cuts it with a knife.[18]

Solomon's Idolatry: Same as woodcut of larger size. King Solomon kneels in front of an idol of Moloch in the center foreground while one of his mistresses and a crowd of men observe him from behind.[19]

Jezebel Promising Naboth's Vineyards to King Ahab: Jezebel stands beside her husband King Ahab of Israel, who is lying on his bed in his room.[20]

Herod and Herodias: In the foreground, Salome holds a plate bearing the head of St. John the Baptist in front of Herod and Herodias, who are sitting at a table. Through a window on the back wall, St. John the Baptist is seen being beheaded.[21]

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See also[edit]


  1. ^ The modern monograph is Elise Lawton Smith, The Paintings of Lucas van Leyden: a new appraisal, with catalogue raisonné, 1992.
  2. ^ (Dutch) Lucas van Leyden biography in Karel van Mander's Schilderboeck, 1604, courtesy of the Digital library for Dutch literature
  3. ^ Smith 1992 identifies Huygh Jacobsz with the pseudonymous Master of the St John Panels.
  4. ^ Smith 1992.
  5. ^ Friedländer, Lucas van Leyden, 1924.
  6. ^ Hollstein, Friedrich. W. H. (1993). "The New Hollstein: Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts 1450-1700". The British Museum. 
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