There was one man in particular who helped make Haarlem into one of Europe’s most important printmaking centres at the end of the 1500s. The illustrator and engraver Hendrick Goltzius founded a printing house, which, thanks in part to the extent of his skill, was able to compete with major publishers in Antwerp, which up to that point had dominated the market for graphic arts.
In 1582 Hendrick Goltzius established his own printing company in Haarlem. Shortly thereafter he became friends with Cornelis van Haarlem and Karel van Mander, and together they developed what would come to be known as Haarlem mannerism. Goltzius was the only one of the three who had mastered the art of engraving.
In his description of Goltzius, Karel van Mander emphasises the imitative aspect of Goltzius’ work by saying that he had a passion for fooling those around him. During his travels to Italy, Goltzius would, according to Karel van Mander, disguise himself as a poor German when he went out to draw. On other occasions he would deceive well-known artists by passing himself off as a Dutch cheese merchant or by having his assistant play the role of the world-renowned artist. Yet just as we need to recognise the engravings as being by Goltzius, regardless of whose works they originally imitated, Goltzius’ true identity was always revealed in real life as well. Goltzius was often recognised for his most eye-catching physical characteristic: the crippled right hand with which he created his beautiful works.
As a printmaker Goltzius was expected to be able to mimic and capture the signature style of any other artist with his burin (engraving chisel.) Van Mander also emphasises Goltzius' ability to figuratively transform his hand into the hand of other artists, as demonstrated through Goltzius’ masterful inventiveness.
Read more about Haarlem mannerism and the print as a medium by clicking on the links below: