Maerten Jacobsz van Heemskerck is one of the main representatives of the so-called Netherlandish Romanists. (Netherlandish “Romanist” is a term used to denote a large group of leading Flemish artists of the first half of the 16th century, who integrated the classical imagery in their work. From this time on, painting mythological scenes and nudes as the main subject also became popular in the Netherlands.) The artist was born in Heemskerk, near Haarlem, in 1498. After training in Haarlem and Delft he, in 1527, entered the workshop of
Jan van Scorel, only by a few years his senior, probably working as his assistant rather than pupil. He visited Rome in 1532 and remained there probably until 1537. In Italy he drew ancient and modern architectural structures, the exact archeological precision of these drawings makes them highly valuable documents on Roman monuments at the time.
The artist was back in Haarlem in 1538. He received a commission for a winged altar with scenes of the Passion of Christ and the Legend of St. Lawrence in that year. He soon acquired a high reputation as a painter of altarpieces and portraits. His contact with Haarlem humanist circles was reflected in his allegorically encoded representations. In 1540, he was appointed deacon of the St. Lukas Guild in Haarlem and was granted tax exemption in 1572 on account of his artistic achievements.
Marten van Heemskerck died in Haarlem in 1574.
Painting of Europe. XIII-XX centuries. Encyclopedic Dictionary. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1999.
c.1530. Oil on wood. Staatliche Gemaldegalerie, Kassel, Germany.