The biography of Hans von Aachen (1552 - 1615)

Hans von Aachen (1552 - 1615) was a Mannerist painter born in Cologne, Germany, died in Prague. His name is derived from his father’s hometown, Aachen in Germany.

Showing great talent for drawing at a very young age, Hans von Aachen began painting in Germany. He first trained with a minor painter in his native Cologne before he moved to the Netherlands and Italy (1574-87) where he visited Rome and Florence, but eventually settled in Venice. In Venice Aachen was much impressed by the works of Tintoretto. He soon decided to develop his own mannerist technique, by studying Tintoretto and Michelangelo’s followers. Despite his interest for Tintoretto, von Aachen seemed to be during all of his life much influenced by Correggio, Spranger and Hendrick Goltzius who dominated the art scene in Germany at the time.

When he came to Rome, one of his first works was a Nativity. He also painted the portrait of Madonna Venusta, a famous musician. The painter went on to paint the portrait of Madonna Laura, a poetess, which earned him a solid reputation. After a four-year stay in Italy, he visited Cologne before going to Munich where he painted a Resurrection and portraits of members of the family of Prince Willem V.

He returned to Germany in 1587 or 1588 where he became well known as a painter of portraits for noble houses. 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.

He settled in Prague in 1596 as court painter to the emperor Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, serving as painter, art dealer, and diplomat while also completing commissions for clients in Munich and Augsburg. In Prague he painted a work titled Venus and Adonis that was so impressive that the Monarch appointed him as his official painter. He frequently journeyed abroad on diplomatic missions and to purchase pictures for his insatiable patron. On Rudolf’s death (1612) he worked for his successor, the emperor Matthias.

His Bethsabe bathing, now in Vienna, was considered as his masterpiece. Several of his works can be found in the museums of Cologne, Gratz, Hanover, London, Valenciennes and Vienna.