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Heinrich Aldegrever - German Artist From Art History

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Historical Artist - Heinrich Aldegrever (1502 - 1561)

Heinrich Aldegrever trained as a goldsmith, creating decorative designs for ironwork such as swords, daggers, and knives. He later began engraving, his work falling into the group of artists during the German Renaissance known as the “Little Masters” due to the diminutive size of their prints. Aldegrever focused on mythological and Biblical subjects, executed with intricate detail, line, light and shadow. Between 1527 and 1555, he produced close to 300 wondrously small prints.

Aldegrever, who actively supported the Reformation, executed portraits of Martin Luther and Philip Melanchton. Although he chose the Lutheran Church, he had friends among the Anabaptists. He was commissioned by the bishop of Münster in 1535-36 to engrave portraits of Anabaptist leaders Jan van Leyden and Berndt Knipperdolling, although they were already imprisoned, and only caricatures of them circulated. In the cycle Power of Death, done under visible influence of Hans Holbein, he criticizes the vices of the Catholic Church.

Aldegrever was interested also in folk subjects. In 1538 and 1551 two series of prints depicting marriage dances were made. An important part of his oeuvre are prints on mythological subjects, the Deeds of Hercules being one of the best examples.

There is a good collection of his prints in the British Museum. Specimens of his painting are exceedingly rare. Five pictures are in continental galleries, but the genuineness of the works in the Vienna and Munich collections attributed to him is at least doubtful, the only unchallenged example being a portrait of Engelbert Therlaen (1551) in the Berlin Museum.

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