Artist: Leyden, Lucas
Lucas van Leyden
LEYDEN, LUCAS JACOBS, called LUCAS VAN LEYDEN, from the place of his nativity, was born in 1489. He was the son of Hugo Jacobs, an obscure painter, who instructed his son in the rudiments of art. Almost in infancy, he exhibited the greatest passion for the fine arts, and an extraordinary precocity of genius. He bestowed all his time, night and day, to his favorite pursuits, and had scarcely attained his ninth year, when he produced some plates from his own designs. His father now placed him with Cornelius Engelbrechtsen, to study painting, under whose instructions he made such progress, that at twelve years of age he produced his picture of St. Hubert, the excellence of which, astonished the artists of his time, and procured him the greatest applause, only stimulating him to greater exertions.
In 1508, when he was fourteen years of age appeared his celebrated print of Mahomet drunk, having killed the Monk Sergius. Contemporary with Albert Durer, there existed between these distinguished artists the most intimate friendship and correspondence, which was never interrupted by any jealousy occasioned by their noble emulation of excelling each other in art. He is said to have surpassed Durer in composition, though inferior to him in design.
He painted in oil, in distemper and on glass, and treated with equal success, history, landscape, and portraits. His coloring is fresh and clear, and his pencil is light, though his pictures are highly finished. His drawing is taken from the model in the stiff Gothic style, then universally prevalent throughout Germany and Flanders, divested of grace and elegance, and his heads, though they have an expression of truth, have neither dignity nor beauty, and there is too great a similarity in them. His draperies are stiff, and broken into too many folds. He had an imperfect acquaintance with the principles of perspective, then not well understood in his country, but he endeavored to overcome this difficulty by apportioning the strength of his coloring to the different degrees of distance in which his objects were placed. These defects, however, may be fairly attributed to the predominant taste of his country, which he had no opportunity of improving by the advantages of travel. His most famous pictures are the last Judgment, an immense composition, with a multitude of figures, in the Town House at Leyden, Christ curing the Blind Man at Jericho, dated 1531; the Virgin and Infant holding a bunch of Grapes, in the imperial collection at Vienna, dated 1522, and the Descent from the Cross, in the church formerly of the Jesuits at Paris.
“As an engraver.” says Strutt, “Lucas van Leyden claims particular attention. At a period when Albert Durer had carried the art of engraving to such perfection in Germany, and Marc Antonio exercised it with the greatest reputation in Italy, Lucas disputed the palm with those celebrated competitors, in the Low Countries. He learned the use of the point and graver from a goldsmith, which he carried to a surprising pitch of perfection for the short time he lived. His style differs from that of Albert Durer, and seems to have been built on that of Israel van Mecheln. His executions is neat and clean; but as his strokes are equally fine in objects in the foreground, as in those in the distance, and as there is a want of connection in the masses, his plates, though extremely neat, are inferior to those of purer in firmness and harmony of effect. His figures are tall and meager, the extremities rather mannered than correct, and ugh his attitudes are not ill chosen, they are generally stiff and ungraceful. He engraved on wood as well as on copper, but his cuts are not very numerous. They are spirited and masterly, though inferior to those of Albert Durer.”
Lucas van Leyden died in 1533, aged 39. It is said that he was fond of display and corporeal enjoyments, and that he indulged himself to such an extent as to destroy his constitution. His chief companion in dissipation was John de Mabuse. Yet he executed an astonishing number of works for so short a life. There are considerably over one hundred paintings, (of which above eighty are historical subjects) considered genuine by him in the galleries and collections of Europe. Doubtless some of these were executed by cotemporary artists, who availed themselves of his prints and drawings in imitating his style. It is the fate of all imitators to have their best works attributed to their prototype, and the possessor never has any doubt of their originality. His prints are very numerous. Bartsch, Zani, and Ottley, agree that Lucas van Leyden did not engrave on wood; that he merely traced the design and employed others to execute the work. The same has been said of Albert Durer and other eminent artists, whose wooden cuts are so highly prized.—(See Durer.) The following list comprises all his principal prints, of which fine impressions are now very scarce and valuable. His prints are usually marked with the Gothic letter L:
SUBJECTS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.
A set of six, of the Creation and Fall of Adam and Eve. 1529. Adam and Eve driven from Paradise. 1510. Cain and Abel 1524. Abraham and the Angels Abraham sending away Hagar; one of his first plates; very scarce. The same subject differently treated; smaller; called the Little Hagar. Lot and his Daughters; 1530; fine. A set of five of the History of Joseph. 1512. Jeptha and his Daughter. Samson and Delilah. The Triumph of David. David praying, with an Angel appearing to him. 1520. David playing on the Harp before Saul. Solomon worshipping the Idols. 1514. Esther before Ahasuerus 1515. Susanna and the Elders; one of his earliest prints.
SUBJECTS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
St. Joachim and St. Anne. 1520. The Annunciation The Visitation. The Adoration of the Magi; very fine. 1513. H. Goltzius has engraved the same subject, with very little difference. The Repose in Egypt; one of his early prints. The Baptism of Christ; a composition of many figures. Christ tempted by the Devil. 1518. The Resurrection of Lazarus J one Of his early prints. A set of fourteen, of the Passion of our Savior. Another set of nine, circular prints, of the Passion. The Ecce Homo; a rich composition; engraved in 1510. The Crucifixion; another capital composition; one of his finest prints. 1517 Christ appearing to Magdalene. 1519. The Prodigal Son fine.
SUBJECTS OF THE VIRGIN SAINTS.
The Virgin and Infant, with St Anne. 1516. The Virgin and Infant, with a Glory of Angels. The Virgin and Infant, seated at the foot of a tree. The Virgin and Infant, in a landscape, with two Angels; very fine. 1523 The Holy Family, with St, Joseph presenting an Apple A set of thirteen, of Christ and the Twelve Apostles. The Four Evangelists; in four plates; dated 1518. St. Peter and St. Paul; half-length. 1517. The Conversion of St Paul. 1509. St. Peter and St. Paul, in a landscape. 1527 St. Christopher carrying the infant Jesus. 1521; very fine St. John the Baptist in the Desert. 1513. The Decollation of St. John. St. Jerome, with a Book, a Skull, and a Lion. 1521. The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian. St. Anthony, the Hermit. The Temptation of St. Anthony. 1509; very fine; engraved when he was thirteen. St. Francis receiving the Stigmata. St. George combating the Dragon. Mary Magdalene in the midst of the Pleasures of the World; the celebrated print called Magdalene’s Dance ; very fine, and extremely rare. Mary Magdalene in the Desert. St. Catherine; half-length. 1520.
The Monk Sergius, killed by Mahomet>who is sleeping; dated 1508; very fine, engraved when he was fourteen.— The Seven Cardinal Virtues ; in seven prints. 1530. The Death of Lucretia, by some called the Death of Dido — Pyramus and Thisbe. 1514. Mars and Venus. 1530 Minerva seated; supposed to have been his last plate, which he did not quite finish. The Standard-Bearer. A young Man at the head of an armed company, listening to a Man who is speaking to him, with his hat in his hand; fine. The Wedding-Ring; an old Man putting a Ring on the finger of a young Woman; a highly finished etching; scarce. An old Woman, with a Bunch of Grapes. The Musicians. 1524. The Surgeon performing an Operation. 1524. The Quack-doctor. 1523. The scarce and celebrated print called the Uylenspiegel. It represents a man playing on the Bag-pipes, carrying two children in a basket, and a woman with a child on her shoulder, leading an ass with panniers, in which are three more children. This group is preceded by the Uylenspiegel, in the form of a boy, with a hood, having an owl on his shoulder, carrying a pitcher and a staff. The extreme rarity of this print is well known to the collectors. It was for some time believed to be unique, and existing only in the collection of the King of France : but it has since appeared that an impression of it was in Marietta’s collection; and it is thought that there are not more than four or five of them in existence’. Its scarcity constitutes its great value, as it is very inferior to many of his works. It was copied by Hondius and others; and Basan mentions another copy, of it, without the name of the engraver, so exact as easily to be mistaken for the original. It is dated 1520.
The Emperor Maximilian I.; after a picture painted by Lucas when he visited Leyden. The head is executed with the graver, the rest etched, and in parts harmonized with the graver 1520; very fine and scarce. The Portraits of Lucas van Leyden, inscribed Efflgies Luccæ Leidensis propria manu incidere. A young Man, half-length, with a cap and feathers, holding a skull; usually called his own portrait, though it bears no resemblance to the preceding one.
WOODEN CUTS, ALL SCARCE.
The Kings of Israel; in chiaroscuro. The illustrious Women of the Old Testament. Four large Tournaments.