Hans von Aachen (1552 – 1615)
German painter Hans von Aachen was one of the leading representatives of Northern Mannerism. He was born in Cologne. Hans von Aachen began painting in Germany as a pupil of the portrait painter Georg Jerrigh, who had trained in Antwerp. He probably joined the Cologne painters’ guild before leaving for Italy around 1574. He was active as a copyist and worked in the workshop of the Flemish painter and art dealer Gaspar Rem who was a native of Antwerp. Rem arranged for von Aachen to go through an apprenticeship with an artist referred to as Morett.
Von Aachen went to Rome in 1575. Here he studied the antique sculptures and the works of Italian masters. He returned to Germany in 1587, first to Augsburg where he painted portraits for the wealthy Fugger family. He also worked in Munich, where he was commissioned to paint two altarpieces for the church of St Michael. After visiting his home town Cologne and a return trip to Venice, he chose Munich as his residence from 1589.
In Munich he came into contact with the Imperial Court in Prague. In 1592 he was appointed official painter of Emperor Rudolf II who resided in Prague. Von Aachen did not need to reside at the court in Prague as his appointment was as a ‘Kammermaler von Haus aus’ (a court painter from home) who could work from his residence. Rudolf was one of the most important art patrons of his time.
The Emperor was open to artistic innovation and he presided over a new affected style, full of conceits, which became known as Mannerism. This style stressed sensuality, which was expressed in smoothly modeled, elongated figures arranged in elegant poses, often including a nude woman seen from behind.
His style ranges between an idealized style of painting close to Roman and Florentine Mannerism as well as to Venetian masters Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto and the newly emerging tradition of northern realism. Von Aachen developed his own mannerist technique from his study of Tintoretto and Michelangelo’s followers. Throughout his career his principal influences were the style of Bartholomeus Spranger and Hendrick Goltzius who dominated the art scene in Germany at the time.