Hans Sebald Beham



Hans Sebald Beham - Death and the Standing Naked One,1547

Hans Sebald Beham


Hans Sebald Beham - Adam and Eve, 1543

Hans Sebald Beham


Hans Sebald Beham - Death and Three Nude Women, circa 1520-50

Hans Sebald Beham


Hans Sebald Beham, Death and the Indecent Pair,1529

Hans Sebald Beham


Hans Sebald Beham - Boy with a Dog

Hans Sebald Beham


Peasants, Warriors, and Wives: Popular Imagery in the Reformation  


Hans Sebald Beham (1500–1550 ) was a German printmaker who did his best work as an engraver, and was also a designer of woodcuts and a painter and miniaturist. He is one of the most important of the "Little Masters", the group of German artists making old master prints in the generation after Dürer.

Hans Sebald Beham was born into a family of artists in Nuremberg, the older brother of Barthel Beham by two years. In 1525, along with his brother and Georg Pencz, the so-called "godless painters", he was banished from Nuremberg, accused of heresy (against Lutheranism), blasphemy and not recognising the authority of the City council. Within months the three were allowed to return to the city, but Beham was exiled again in 1528 for publishing a book on the proportions of the horse regarded as plagiarised from an unpublished manuscript by Albrecht Dürer, who had recently died. After a period spent working in various German cities, from 1532 he lived mostly in Frankfurt until his death in 1550.

He is increasingly known just as "Sebald Beham", as this how he usually signed his name in full. The "Hans" seems to derive from the first letter of his monogram only. However, up to about 1532 his prints were monogrammed 'HSP', reflecting the Nuremberg pronunciation of his name: Peham. After this date, when he had moved to Frankfurt, his monogram became 'HSB'.

Beham is best known as a prolific printmaker, producing approximately 252 engravings, 18 etchings and 1500 woodcuts, including woodcut book illustrations. He worked extensively on tiny, highly detailed, engravings, many as small as postage stamps, placing him in the German printmaking school known as the "Little Masters" from the size of their prints. These works he produced and published himself, whilst his much larger woodcuts were mostly commissioned work.

The engravings found a ready market among German bourgeois collectors, but were not much seen in Italy. He also made prints for use as playing cards, wallpaper, coats of arms, and designs for other artists, including many designs for stained or painted glass. He also illuminated two prayer books and painted a table top (now in the Louvre ) for Cardinal Albrecht, Archbishop of Mainz.
His engravings cover a range of subjects, but he is especially known for scenes of peasant life, and scenes from classical myth or history, both often with an erotic element.


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