Search the Collections

Joris Hoefnagel
Nationality: 
flemish
Gender: 
Male
Birth Date: 
1542
Birth Place: 
Antwerp
Death Date: 
1600
Death Place: 
Vienna
A painter and draftsman, Joris Hoefnagel is known for his manuscript illuminations, topographic drawings and miniature paintings. He was the last important Flemish manuscript illustrator and one of the earliest still-life artists. An educated and cultured man, Hoefnagel wrote Latin poetry, played musical instruments, knew several languages and dealt in drawings. Born in Antwerp in 1542, his father was a wealthy merchant dealing in jewels and tapestries. Although Karel van Mander’s (1548-1606) 17th-century biography states that he was a student of Hans Bol (1534-1593), Hoefnagel later described himself as self-taught. In 1561 he was travelling in France, probably acting as an agent for his father, and made drawings of the landscapes and people he saw. Later in the decade he was in Spain and England, again probably acting for his father, and made very accurate topographical drawings recording those trips. Many of his views of cities and buildings were reproduced as engravings for the six-volume atlas Civitates orbis tererarum (Cologne, 1572-1618) by Georg Braun (1542-1622) and Franz Hogenberg (ca. 1540-ca. 1590). Hoefnagel eventually contributed 63 drawings to the atlas. He was back in Antwerp by 1570, and married Susanna von Oncken in 1571. Their wedding party was recorded in a painting by the Antwerp artist Frans Pourbus the Elder (1545-1582). Antwerp was attacked and pillaged by the Spanish in 1576, destroying his father’s fortune. The following year Hoefnagel and the geographer Abraham Ortelius traveled south. The Augsberg merchant Hans Fugger (1531-1598) introduced him to the Duke of Bavaria, Albert V (1528-1579), who hired Hoefnagel as a court artist. Rather than remaining in Munich, however, he travelled to Venice, Rome and Naples. In Rome he declined an offer to serve Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (1520-1589), and returned to Munich in 1578. He served Duke Albert and his son and successor, Wilhelm V (1548-1626) until 1591. His employment by the Dukes apparently allowed him to do other work. He created a four-volume set of miniatures of birds, insects, animals and fish that was an attempt to describe all known creatures, with thousands of images, completed in 1582. Van Mander wrote that Hoefnagel sold it to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (1552-1612), for 1,000 gold crowns. Also in the 1580s, Archduke Ferdinand II of Further Austria, Count of Tyrol (1529-1595) commissioned Hoefnagel to add illuminations to a copy of the Roman Catholic missal as revised to reflect the requirements established by the Council of Trent (1545-1563). Hoefnagel illustrated the 658 pages of the missal, now in the Austrian National Library in Vienna. In 1591 Emperor Rudolf hired Hoefnagel, working in Frankfurt until 1594 and then in Vienna until his death. During this time he illuminated two codices of calligraphy by Georg Bocskay (d. 1575), one of the leading calligraphers of the day, who had created them for Rudolf’s father and grandfather, respectively. The first, now in Vienna’s Kunsthistorische Museum, has a wide variety of images, while the second, now in the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, depicts botanical images. Hoefnagel also painted miniatures of items from Rudolf’s Kunstkammer and created paintings for members of Rudolf’s court. Late in his career he did still-life paintings of flowers, some of the earliest of this genre painted by a Netherlandish artist, which had a great influence on subsequent painters. Although an early biography of his friend Ortelius states Hoefnagel died in Prague in 1600, most scholars think he died in Vienna during that year. (TNB 1/2013). Selected bibliography: Wilenski, Reginald Howard. Flemish Painters, 1430-1830. 2 vols. New York: Viking Press, 1960.

Pages