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'.