Maarten van Heemskerck
painter from the Northern Netherlands



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Maarten van Heemskerck
painter from the Northern Netherlands
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Date of Birth

June 01, 1498

Date of Death

October 01, 1574

More about Maarten van Heemskerck

cschuster's picture

Sr. Contributor

Maerten van Heemskerck's most famous work is a 16th century Inception-style selfie.

Son to poor Netherlandish farmer folk, he peaced out from the farm one day and walked 50 miles to the nearest cultural center, Delft. He would have none of milking cows when there was a painter's life to be had. He scraped by afterward, saving his pittance of a living until he could self-finance a trip to Italy to see all the art #lifegoals. In that era, going around the Boot to see art with the goal of becoming an artist was known as taking the Grand Tour. 

Rome really spoke to him. Learned most of his art game by splitting study between the works of Raphael and by copying the statues from Roman antiquity. He was quite the fortunate chap, as his visit to the Eternal City was during the same period that Michelangelo was in midst of the Sistine Chapel. So, yeah, he picked up some pointers by being a hanger-on there, too.

After returning to the Netherlands, he settled in Haarlem and made a killing on religious commissions. But, then the religious mood of the era switched toward iconoclasm and no one wanted pictures of Jesus, Mary or the Saints for a while. So, he pivoted and became more successful doing commercial work by designing prints. Yes, he sold out. But, in doing so, he created the workflow that future artists would use to work with printers for the next several centuries. He'd design something, then hand it off and let professional printers take care of the rest. It sounds pretty obvious, but only because he managed that workflow like a boss.

After his first wife died, he married a sugar mama and was able to coast for the rest of his life on cush commissions. His output of oil paintings show that he'd start a project and then hire a couple other painters to polish it off. One of the only works that he for sure flew solo on was a self-portrait set in front of a painting of himself painting the Colosseum. That's right, he did a painting within a painting. He's got the biggest grin in the world and basically looks at the viewer like, "Yeah, I been there. Jealous much?"

mhoutzager's picture


Born June 1, 1498 - Died October 1, 1574

Also Marten Jacobsz Heemskerk van Veen

Ran away from home to escape having to milk cows. The nearest town without cows was 50 miles away and van Heemskerck covered that distance on foot in one day (he really hated milking cows).

In spite of being a farmer's son he was able to go on a "Grand Tour," an educational trip usually reserved for children of good breeding.

He painted the seven wonders of the world, but was smart enough to also make prints, which was much more profitable than painting. In fact, he was able to make a very nice living off his art and because he was very popular with the authorities he was excused from paying taxes! He died rich.

In his will he left his considerable fortune to an orphanage with the condition that the orphanage use part of it to pay a bonus to any couple willing to be married on top of his grave (having people marry on someone's grave was thought to bring peace to the deceased).

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Maarten van Heemskerck

Maerten van Heemskerck or Marten Jacobsz Heemskerk van Veen (1 June 1498 – 1 October 1574) was a Dutch portrait and religious painter, who spent most of his career in Haarlem. He was a pupil of Jan van Scorel, and adopted his teacher's Italian-influenced style. He spent the years 1532–6 in Italy. He produced many designs for engravers, and is especially known for his depictions of the Wonders of the World.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Maarten van Heemskerck.