Karel van Mander on his Deathbed, Jacques de Gheyn II
Jacques de Gheyn II
Karel van Mander on his Deathbed
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Jacques de Gheyn II

Karel van Mander on his Deathbed, 1606

142 x 177 mm
Physical Description
Brown ink over traces of black chalk, the harp with blue-grey washes, highlighted with white (on the head, traces), framing line with light-brown ink on all sides, additionally with graphite pencil, on laid paper primed in white
Inventory Number
Object Number
800 Z
Can be presented in the study room of the Graphische Sammlung (special opening hours)


About the Work

Together with Hendrick Goltzius, the Antwerp painter, copper engraver and draughtsman Jacques de Gheyn is the most important Netherlandish draughtsman of the generation before Rembrandt. In addition to his many templates for engravings, he is famous in particular for the accuracy of his nature studies. On the back of this drawing the copper engraver Cornelis Ploos van Amstel, in whose widely illustrious collection the sheet was preserved during the eighteenth century, noted that de Gheyn had portrayed the painter and art writer Karel van Mander (1548-1606) on his deathbed. Van Mander, who was also known as the "Vasari of the North", created the earliest collection of biographies of Netherlandish artists in his 'Schilderboek'. Published in 1604, his art historiography remains a fundamental work to this day. The artist has recorded in two pen-and-ink views the gaunt facial features of the deceased man, making clear the situation with a pillow and a shroud tied at the neck. Somewhat in the manner of a copper engraving, the pen is used to model with parallel lines of different thickness, sensitively creating an impression of skin. A fine pattern of dots on the eyelids and lips in the left-hand study makes it look more like a corpse than the study on the right. The fact that the artist was concerned to record his subject as precisely as possible can be seen in the noticeable unevenness of the outer ears, which he has carefully observed in both views. The traditional belief that this is a deathbed portrait of Karel van Mander is not finally confirmed, but it is supported by the harp, which Jacques de Gheyn subsequently added to the two studies of the head. The instrument, whose realistic appearance is enhanced by the fine grey wash, has been placed in the same way that one would position a crux mortis on the breast of the deceased person. The harp is a reference to Van Mander's literary and poetic activities and could also allude to the collection of hymns he published in 1599 as 'De gulden harpe'.

Work Data

Basic Information

Karel van Mander on his Deathbed
Period Produced
Object Type
Physical Description
Brown ink over traces of black chalk, the harp with blue-grey washes, highlighted with white (on the head, traces), framing line with light-brown ink on all sides, additionally with graphite pencil, on laid paper primed in white
Geographic Reference
Production Reason
Captions Added Later
Verso bezeichnet (von Cornelis Ploos van Amstel, Amsterdam [Lugt 3002], mit der Feder in Braun): Den Overleeden / Karel Vermander / Kunstig Schilder / te Amsterdam / op zijn doodbed leggende / nevens de harp, waar op hij in / zijn Laatste Oogenblik noch / een Psalm gespeeld had./ Jaq. de Gheijn / Fecit.; unten links Trockenstempel der Sammlung Cornelis Ploos van Amstel, Amsterdam (Lugt 2034); Stempel des Städelschen Kunstinstituts, Frankfurt am Main (Lugt 2356)
  • Nicht vorhanden
Work Catalogues
  • Regteren Altena 1983.113.693

Property and Acquisition

Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Picture Copyright
Public Domain

Work Content

Motifs and References

Main Motif
Persons Shown
Associated Medium
  • Karel van Mander, De gulden harpe, 1627



Research and Discussion


Object History
Dionys Muilman (1702–1772), Amsterdam
Nachlass Muilman, 1772
VVerst. durch Jan de Bosch, , Amsterdam, 29. März 1773
Cornelis Ploos van Amstel (1726–1798), Amsterdam
VVerst. durch Philippus van der Schley, , Amsterdam, 3. März 1800
Johann Friedich Städel (1728–1816), Frankfurt am Main
Nachlass Johann Friedrich Städel, 1816.


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