CC BY-SA 4.0 Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Karel van Mander on his Deathbed

Jacques de Gheyn (II), 1606
Städel Museum, Frankfurt

From a slightly raised standpoint, as if standing by the bed, De Gheyn drew two views of a man on his deathbed with bold pen and ink lines that simultaneously define volume and create texture. As a draftsman, Jacques de Gheyn II’s innovation stemmed in part from his impulse to draw observable reality in a naturalistic mode. Karel van Mander on his Deathbed, from 1606, perfectly illustrates the artist’s commitment to drawing near het leven (from the life), a term the drawing’s supposed sitter, the artist, poet, and biographer Karel van Mander, promoted. A harp lays foreshortened and out of scale across the man’s chest. Likely added after the initial sketches, it is a clue (if not definitive) in helping to identify the sitter, who completed a book of hymns titled De gulden harpe. De Gheyn’s friend is memorialized by the careful attention of the artist’s hand, an act inimitably human in scale and scope, and a herald to the advance of naturalism in the seventeenth century.

Emily J. Peters, Curator of Prints and Drawings, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland

Explore more

High resolution image

See the smallest details

View on Google Arts & Culture